Just ahead of all the Christmas chat and cheer I thought I would just pop on by and share my latest.
When you are a parent of a child with Special Needs (well almost 16 is more adult than child!) and when you happen to be on the TV too it offers a wonderful and privileged opportunity to share your story and in doing so educate others . I write my blogs and like to chatter about Dan and Tom, Joe and Maddie and all the ordinary bits and bobs and goings on of our lives in and around QVC and I am thrilled when I hear back from you all and particularly when I may have helped someone a tiny bit who is starting out on their family journey with a child who is just that little bit different to what they expected or indeed what our world decides is normal or dare I say… ordinary .
There are many superb bloggers around and particularly within the Down’s Syndrome Community some shining lights who take their voices and use them wisely and wonderfully to share the battles and triumphs, to educate and sometimes fight to show the importance of our children within this world. I am incredibly grateful to them but feel I am more a “supporting cast member” as oppose to the “leading lady” which in itself is actually quite funny as all my life I’ve been centre stage!
However the other week I was playing my leading lady role in full, not on a stage or behind a camera a la QVC but as an after dinner speaker for The Inner Wheel Club of Horsham, a wonderful group of ladies whose objectives are ‘to promote true friendship , encourage the ideals of personal service and foster International Understanding’ and the President for this year just happens to be my Mummy.
The President is allowed to also choose a charity of her choice and the Inner Wheel fundraise for that charity for the year of her term. There are a number of charities she could chose, all of whom have incredibly personal connections for Mummy, so I was bowled over when she said she had decided to choose The Down’s Syndrome Association – however it was swiftly followed by “And I’d like you to come down and speak at our event about Tom and how the DSA have helped you through the years”. Gulp. Okay, so yes, of course I can speak – I’m a presenter, that’s my job! TV, award ceremonies, live shows yup no problem but… and hear is the gulp moment… I have always realised that I’m still so emotional when it comes to talking about Tom and whilst many have suggested I would be a great ambassador for Down’s Syndrome I just worry that I would be overwhelmed and the wobbles would come.
Well, I was right. I was… (overwhelmed) and they did come (the wobbles!) but do you know what, it simply didn’t matter.
I told my story of Tom’s birth, I shared my thoughts and my worries I spoke about the amazing work the DSA do and the support they have been able offer in all areas for us as a family and for so many new, frightened uncertain parents. I was honest and yes I did struggle a little when reliving some moments, but I got through it and I was proud of myself. I chose to read out the poem Welcome to Holland which was sent to me from a number of QVC viewers amongst my 250 letters and cards when Tom was born (they are all still safely up in my loft). It is a poem which many find comfort from and I for one recognised certain elements within it and it has lived always on my fridge. The ladies said afterwards that they had found it to be a lovely and thought provoking piece. I did finish with a very funny story about Tom (believe me it was hard to choose just one!) which meant it ended with laughter and was very positive and upbeat.
Afterwards I was presented with a cheque for The Down’s Syndrome Association from their first fundraising event. It felt so special to be a tiny part of something which is helping an important charity continue to raise awareness and deliver vital support, so a heartfelt thank you to all the fabulous ladies from The Inner Wheel Club of Horsham.
As I said at the start of this blog the fact I am on television did indeed give me a cheeky treat in the guise of an unexpected invitation for Tom to attend the Special Olympics Great Britain Activity Festival at the Copper Box Arena, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park where hundreds of youngsters in London were given the chance to have a taster of many different sports. SOGB is a sports training and competition programme for all people with intellectual disabilities across Great Britain. Tom it turns out was really pretty fabulous at canoeing – they had a static machine there, quite how his skills would translate to the open water I don’t know, but he impressed the teacher and we came away with some email addresses to follow it up if we wanted to.
After my netball prowess was cut short before it properly began! (following the injury to my ankle in July where I severed a tendon and tore another two) I watched Tom with great interest and was super impressed by his goal scoring and his technique, with a smashing flick of the wrist resulting in lots of goals!
We are lucky enough to have a SOGB group near us which Tom goes to on a Monday, though as yet no competitions… so far!
Dan and I came away super impressed and inspired, in particular by Ian Harper a SO Athlete who has competed in a number of National Games. Ian gave a wonderful speech and when asked how he would sum up his SO experience so far in just one word he said “Joyful”. That one word says so much and was pretty much how I was feeling after that day…well that and proud, proud of Tom, proud of all the people with differences both physical and intellectual and proud to have a connection with so many wonderful people changing lives.
I shall be back super soon talking all things Christmassy so until then,
Love Claire xxx
BBC News were filming the event, the video is below showing the news report.
Here’s a link to The Down’s Syndrome Association should you need any information
Here is the link to Welcome to Holland