Save Orange Schemes - A Challengers Story
As the nation makes it through the fourth week of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all feeling the heavy weight of the responsibility we each carry. Whether it’s our incredible nurses and doctors on the front line, our care workers, shelf stackers, those working from home or parents suddenly thrust into the role of teacher; we’re all doing our part to get through this incredibly difficult time.
Despite knowing how important it is, making the best out of being stuck at home can be difficult. The hours of television I’ve consumed is somewhat embarrassing and if my fridge could talk then it would certainly ask why I’ve felt inclined to peer inside it every half an hour. Despite these distractions my mind continues to drift back to the same familiar comfort; the Orange Family.
I’ve worked for Challengers for the last four years and consider myself a fully-fledged, card carrying orange member. Anyone who works for Challengers will tell you the same, you become somewhat fluorescent in your love for the charity and wearing anything other than our bright orange tops feels unnatural.
You’ve probably seen us out and about, our sea of orange and smiling faces and if you haven’t clocked eyes on us yet then trust me when I say it is the most joyous sight. For 40 years Challengers have been providing safe spaces for disabled children and young people to make friends and play together.
Running play, youth and young adults’ schemes across the South East of England; they’ve had 40 years of laughter, success, friendship and memories.
However, as the country shuts its doors, so do they. Our schemes have had to shut for the foreseeable future and this has had a catastrophic effect on the families we know and love. Usually we’d be enjoying our Easter schemes. We’d no doubt have spent days covered in slime, hunting for chocolate eggs or charging around a theme park. Instead, our play and youth workers are away from their schemes, our venues are empty and our lives are unnervingly quiet without that delightful chaos.
For many of us there is a light at the end of the tunnel. With the sun shining and the sky bright and blue, it is easy to imagine how wonderful it will be to reunite with our friends and families. How much sweeter it will be to gather around a BBQ, to throw our arms around each other without trepidation or to watch as our children play outside again; together as they should be.
How devastating it would be then to imagine a reality where that isolation might not end for our loved ones, our siblings or our children. A reality where children might not be able to gather with their friends, experience the rush of excitement as they play together or access the support that they need in order to enjoy their leisure time the way they choose to.
This is going to be an unthinkable reality for so many of the children and young people we are missing at Challengers if we do not survive the economic effects of the pandemic. Unless we are able to open as many of our schemes as possible then children and young people are going to suffer permanent isolation. They will no longer be able to access that vital play and social experience and their families will not be able to get the crucial respite from their care responsibilities.
This would be a devastating for our families and the charity.
We rely on donations for half of our yearly incomes. Within just a few months, we are seeing a shortfall of £150,000 directly from cancelled fundraising events and activities. Without this funding, the charity simply will not survive.
It is crucial that Challengers continues as a lifeline of support to the thousands of families that depend on us.
Every £155 raised will pay for a day of activities, friendships and fun for a disabled young person. I have seen firsthand just how far that donation goes. I’ve seen how children have been able to express themselves and blossom through play, how new friendships have grown and strengthened and how many endless hours of laughter it has giving us all.
Now is the time for you to have your own little place in our team! By donating to Challengers you are enabling children and young people to gain access to the play they deserve and need. We are reaching out to you to help save Challengers. Please help us #SaveOrangeSchemes and donate to our Crowdfunder page.