A Wrexham mum who provides round-the-clock care for her severely disabled daughter is calling on Christmas shoppers to dig deep and support the charity that gives her family a lifeline.
Caitlin Hooper, 16, from Borras, suffers with quadriplegia cerebral palsy which prevents her from being able to control the movements of her arms and legs, self-feed, walk unaided or talk.
The youngster, who was born prematurely at 32 weeks and receives 24-7 care, attends a weekly youth club and summer holiday club run by Dynamic, a Wrexham-based centre for children and young people with disabilities, which gives her precious independence and freedom to be a teenager.
Her mum Mel, who was recently elected a trustee of the charity, is now urging kind-hearted shoppers at Wrexham’s Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre to support a host of Christmas-themed fundraising activities to help more families like her own.
Among the exciting festivities planned is a free Santa’s Grotto with face-painting on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December and between Saturday 14 and Monday 23 December, from 10am until 4pm each day, where voluntary donations to Dynamic will be welcomed.
The shopping centre will also host a charity gift wrapping service in aid of Dynamic, which will be part-staffed by volunteers from the charity, and welcome some special Christmas characters throughout the festive period.
“I cannot shout loud enough about what the service means to parents like me,” said Mel, who has another daughter, 20-year-old Chloe, and lives with her partner Richie Dare.
“Caitlin loves it because she relies on me for everything. She’s in a wheelchair, she cannot feed herself and she’s doubly incontinent, I have to accompany her everywhere. Dynamic is the only place she can go where I’m not there. She can go and be with her friends like a normal 16-year-old girl. It gives her some independence.
“When I take her to the summer holiday club she tries to push me out the door! She mightn’t be able to speak but she lets her feelings be known!
“Caitlin is 16 now and moving towards adulthood which is scary. Her condition is not going to change and she will always need the amount of support she receives now. This service is a lifeline for her. It allows her to be a 16-year-old, even though she’s disabled.”
Dynamic was set up in 1995 and has its centre on the corner of Salisbury Road in Hightown.
The charity, which is partially funded by Wrexham Council and needs around £200,000 a year to stay open, provides out of school care and training for children aged between eight and 19, living with a range of disabilities and physical and emotional impairments.
Currently, the service supports more than 100 young people by holding six weekly after school groups, a Saturday group, activities’ during school holidays and a major summer programme to support families during the long school break.
However, the sessions are in huge demand and dozens of families remain on the waiting list.
“Dynamic is a small charity and we are constantly fundraising. Any offer of help is just fantastic,” said Mel.
“There’s still a waiting list, even though we’ve just taken on another 25 to 30 children. This service is so vital. Some people have been on the list a long time but until we have more funding to pay for staff we’re helpless, that’s why it’s brilliant that Eagles Meadow are fundraising on our behalf. It means we can help more people. Any amount helps and we are just so grateful.”
Oana Mocanasu, Marketing Manager for Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre, said the team was extremely proud to be teaming up with Dynamic again and raising money for their fantastic services for young people.
She said: “There are many local families who rely on Dynamic to bring happiness and fulfilment to children and young people, like Caitlin, and Eagles Meadow Shopping Centre is 100 per cent behind their cause.”
“Christmas is a magical time of year for children. It is also a time of generosity and charity, which is why we’ve chosen to support Dynamic once again with a fabulous programme of festivities, including a free Santa’s grotto.
“We want to help more young people like Caitlin and hope shoppers will show their support for Dynamic’s life-enhancing work while enjoying some terrific festive fun at the same time.”
Amy Lynch, deputy manager of Dynamic, said the charity was extremely grateful for the Eagles Meadow support and added: “We only receive 52 per cent of our costs through grant funding, the other 48 per cent we have to find ourselves over the year which is quite a tall order.
“We do as much as we possibly can but we’re always looking for organisations to support us. With Eagles Meadow being on our doorstep and our young people often accessing the facilities within it, it’s ideal for us to come down and make people more aware of what we do as a charity.
“We are very grateful for the support of Eagles Meadow and the public too. Eagles Meadow supported us during the summer with the Passport to Africa activities to coincide with the release of the Lion King. The ‘add-on’ effect of that was that people were able to familiarise themselves with us.
“We are a unique service within North Wales and our young people come to us with a range of disabilities. We give them the opportunities that they should have if they were mainstream children and young people.”
Life for Caitlin and her family is a daily challenge. The teenager attends St Christopher’s School in Wrexham daily, during term time, while her mum looks after all her needs at home, with one evening of respite provided per week at a local authority funded centre for children with special needs. Despite her difficulties, the teenager loves to smile and have fun.
“She can only say the odd word but she has impeccable hearing and a wicked sense of humour – she usually gets a joke before her sister!” said Mel, who moved to Wrexham six years ago from the Shetland Islands.
“She understands absolutely everything but sometimes people don’t understand that. She’s fully aware of what’s going on. She’ll sit there beaming. She’s very sociable and loves being around people. She has all the staff at Dynamic wrapped around her little finger.”
Dynamic has been able to host summer clubs at St Christopher’s for the past year which has enabled the children to continue benefitting from the hydrotherapy pool.
“When the school is shut it’s a long six weeks without hydrotherapy,” said Mel.
“We were so lucky to find a service like this, it was pure luck.
“We do not feel sorry for ourselves. We just get on with it. But we would be lost without Dynamic.”
For more information on the free festive fun helping to raise money for Dynamic at Eagles Meadow, go to http://www.eagles-meadow.co.uk/whats-on/events.html