Who are Challengers and What do they do?
Challengers provide inclusive play and leisure opportunities across the South East. It is a place where disabled children and young people can access fun activities in a safe and organised environment. Charities are struggling right now; no one could have foreseen the extent that Covid-19 could have on such vital services to many. So, I decided that I should write a blog post for why I feel we should be supporting charities like Challengers.
Families with disabled children can access Challengers to help offer short breaks and rest bite. Giving families opportunities for shopping, housework and spending time with other children. Having access to the support of Challengers has changed our families life. It is a lifeline in our area.
Challengers have a non-exclusion policy, so anyone is welcome to attend. You don’t have to be disabled, live in a particular area or hold any type of benefit.
How Have Challengers Helped Us?
We couldn’t be more grateful that charities like Challengers exist. Unfortunately due to budget cuts within the local area and due to the government places like Challengers often have to cut services, close schemes and limit attendance just to be able to offer any support.
Our son Thomas has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and learning difficulties and has been attending a Challengers playscheme since he was four years old. Playschemes take children from 4-12 years old, after which they can move on to youth schemes and in some areas adult schemes. They run at weekends, after school and during the school holidays all through the year at various community venues and some areas have a pre-school.
We usually aim that Thomas attends once or twice a month on a Saturday, this gives us time to go shopping, tidy the house, allow his older sister to have a play date or just visit friends and family. It’s thanks to schemes like Challengers that we get a few hours to do normal things.
I think it underestimated how much support Challengers staff give our children. They always greet Thomas with a smile and use names. They know our children well, so we know they will have a fantastic time. Thomas usually has the same 1-1, it changes around but the same small team so he is familiar with them.
It’s vital for us that Thomas can attend somewhere he can be himself and also remain safe.
Thomas is by no means easy and likes to be outside even in the rain, and his 1-1 staff member encourages him to explore the area, there is no pressure for them to do certain activities, apart from eating lunch, which is often a challenge.
We get feedback after each session, explaining what he struggled with or excelled with, and I find this encouraging. It’s vital for us that Thomas can attend somewhere he can be himself and also remain safe.
Fundraising and Supporting
Unfortunately, with the announcement of Covid-19 Challengers and other playschemes like them have had to close. So our much-needed lifeline has been paused, and it’s not easy. I sometimes panic that this could all very much be over, should they not be given the support and fundraising efforts they are used to they may have to close our local playscheme or accept fewer children and believe me it’s hard enough at the best times.
So What if They Did Close?
It’s easy to take for granted the holiday club that runs at your local primary school, they are fully exclusive but very early on you realise they could never meet your child’s needs. That it isn’t safe for your son and that they don’t understand his needs.
So many families I know have had similar experiences and have turned to Challengers because their child’s behaviour is too much, their autism means that they struggle in specific environments. Your child needs that 1-1 that your average holiday club just can’t manage.
Firstly, the knock-on effect of any playscheme closing means it would likely push parents to book with their other nearest playscheme. We have two within a similar distance and three at a push if we travel further. I am one of those parents who feels guilty every time Thomas attends. “What if someone needed it more?” “What if someone hasn’t had a break in months?” Is it just me?
There is also this risk that without schemes like Challengers parents would become isolated and children would struggle to access leisure or social activities.
I realised last summer, when we struggled to get him in more than three times over the six weeks break that it’s tough when you work part-time, have other children and a house to run. Thomas grows bored as he just wants to be entertained all the time. You need that rest bite to keep some sanity.
So What Can you Do?
If you aren’t aware of Challengers, their head office is in Guildford, just off Stoke Park. It has a permanently built Playcentre and was the first site. Farnham also has a Playcentre with a soft play and outdoor play area (which Thomas loves).
You don’t have to look far to find ways of how to support or fundraise Challengers. My Mother in Law is the Principal of a performing arts school, and over the years Haslemere Performing Arts have raised over £500 by hosting watch days. More recently they hosted a virtual quiz night to raise money towards their #SaveOrangeSchemes.
On the 10th April 2020, Challengers launched their #SaveOrangeSchemes appeal and so far have raised just over £60,000 which they couldn’t have done with the support of so many donations.
Just £10 could help fund a fun activity for a child like Thomas but it’s so much more.
You hold power to make a difference, and with their campaign coming to an end in just a few days they really could do with all the support they can get and also beyond that. Thanks to regular support and donations, Challengers could continue to offer the same support and services it has for the last 40 years!
Whether you fancy hosting a virtual coffee morning, a virtual quiz night, a virtual card game or you want to dust off your old bike and take part in a 20-mile bike ride. Please check out their website to see what other’s have been doing during the lockdown.
Play changes lives and every penny donated to Challengers will make a difference, there are many ways for you to show your support today:
- Ask 5 friends to donate £5, see if they can ask 5 more!
- Share our appeal with your friends, family and colleagues
- Follow our social media pages to spread the word!
Please click on any of the links in this post for more information and find details on how you can help them reach their goal.