Over 25 Southwater volunteers, as well as 18 local businesses gave up there time to support The Sensory Tree Family Fun day on Saturday May 31.
The fun day was organised to launch the new charity and raise much needed funds to develop a soft play centre and farm for families with children with special needs in the village Southwater and surrounding area.
I had a vision when I was a young, of running a farm and inviting children with special needs to spend time with the animals.
Life took over as it does and in the meantime, my husband and I set up a children’s party business ‘Busydays’. We were contacted by a lady who had a range of soft play and resources she thought we may be interested in buying. We arranged to visit her for a viewing.
As we pulled up on to the farm she lived on with her young family, and listened to her story about the charity she had been running for children with special needs I was reminded of my teenage vision.
The charity was called Sussex Fun Days, and although very successful and popular, it made more and more demands on her time. We decided there and then that we would not only buy the resources, but also set up a new charity to help fill the huge gap left by Sussex Fun days.
Our nephew has special needs and so I understand how having a child with special educational needs (SEN) can be very isolating. Sometimes parents don’t know where to turn.
Finding places to take their children, who have various and complex-learning difficulties, to play is a problem. The usual venues such as regular soft play centres and bowling for example, are not always suitable due to lack of wheelchair access, noise, lighting and many other problems.
The Sensory Tree committee decided that although we could not offer the same level of respite care as Sussex Fun days for this summer, we could start by running a family fun day and SEN play sessions to raise awareness and funds for our ultimate goal.
The family fun day was a huge success, and the new charity collected £700 with fundraising stalls, raffles and face painting.
Over 300 people came to show their support and among our attendees were Peter Evans, Cabinet Member for Children and Claire Vickers District Councilor for Southwater.
With support from small, independent businesses such as Anna Benning of ‘Pamper U’ donating a spa day for four people, to larger chains like Mannings Heath Golf club offering Afternoon Tea for two; we were overwhelmed by the generosity of local business who donated towards our raffle.
Our day didn’t go with a hitch though! Busydays needed urgent help to move the Sensory Soft play equipment, and so local builder Mark Bird of BC Construction stepped in and helped with transportation. We also had a fire alarm go off half way through the day, and so the school care taker Mr Beavis kindly came to our aid.
Newly elected Southwater Parish Councillor Stephen Francies is quoted as saying “I think you will agree that this proves that people in Southwater want to do something to help children and families with special educational needs in our local area, but until now have not known how.
The Sensory Tree allows them to be involved in local village life and support those members of our community who need it most.”
The Sensory Tree will be working with the Southwater Children and Family centre to offer a weekly support group/ play session for children and families with SEN.
I am currently putting together The Sensory Tree summer programme which will incorporate more amazing fund raising events as well as play sessions and fun days. You can find out more about our summer programme by visiting www.thesensorytree.org.uk, or finding us on Facebook.
I invite you to visit our stall at this year’s Sparks in The Park on the 13th July; a free family event organised by Horsham District Council.
On behalf of The Sensory Tree committee I would like to thank everyone for their kind support and I look forward to keeping you updated on future developments.