Written by Faye Dixon, Living North Magazine – June 2021 Issue

As Yorkshire Children’s Trust celebrate their 10th birthday, we find out how they hope to expand their care provisions with a new premises – and how we can help.

Simon Widdop, the charity’s founder and trustee, launched Yorkshire Children’s Trust after his daughter, Leigh-Anne, was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was just five. Simon and his family fell through the gap when it came to funding Leigh-Anne’s long-term care once she left hospital. ‘On speaking to other families it became a common theme, and we created Yorkshire Children’s Trust from my kitchen table with an old laptop, and the money in my pocket, to help support children in the same situation as my own daughter,’ Simon tells us. ‘We wanted to help support children no matter what their illness or disability – and now we help support the emotional and financial needs of children all across Yorkshire.’

Yorkshire Children’s Trust have come a long way, and have helped so many children over the last 10 years. ‘It’s extremely humbling to realise that a charity I created now helps to support children throughout Yorkshire, including directly supporting children in hospital at Easter and Christmas with our gift appeals,’ Simon says. ‘Although I have always supported local charities, I never thought it would become such a big part of my life. Our initial support was purely to help fund expensive, but necessary equipment such as the wheelchair my own daughter needed. But it has since expanded to support children in hospital for a long duration with a Hospital Stay Grant, to help with those extra expenses.’

As the charity has continued to grow, so have their support options. ‘We recently purchased an accessible static caravan at Butlins in Skegness, so we are able to offer free holidays to families with long- term sick or disabled children,’ Simon reveals. ‘We also directly support positive mental health with our in-house counselling and play therapy services with an NCS Registered Counsellor.’

But, of course, the pandemic has had a dramatic effect not only on the way they work, but in their fundraising efforts – they’ve had to cancel all their events over the past year.

‘The charity has seen a dramatic rise in requests for support over the last 12 months, especially in requests for help with children’s mental health,’ Simon tells us. ‘We have seen referrals for children suffering from anxiety, OCD, loss of loved ones and self-harming. We’ve provided free video chat support sessions through the pandemic and now we are able to see the children in our counselling suite where we help support them with counselling and play therapies to lead them to a positive outlook.’

For the charity’s 10th birthday celebrations, Simon had planned a fundraising party with live music and fun activities. Covid-19 meant he had to cancel the birthday plans, but instead of giving up, he took a more proactive approach. The charity needs to expand their counselling suite and create a new sensory room to enhance their therapy options, which is why they have launched their Big Birthday Appeal instead.

‘We are hoping to raise £30,000 to help fund the move into new specialist premises with a new state of the art sensory room,’ Simon explains. ‘We have seen a fantastic response so far, with more than £18,000 donated since we launched the appeal at the beginning of March. The more we raise, the better facilities we will be able to put together to support local children and their families.’

Sensory Room

The new premises will have two counselling rooms, one of which will be tailored towards younger children who benefit more from play therapies, with the second being tailored for older children and young adults. The adjoining specialist sensory room will be able to cater to children who have additional sensory needs, allowing the charity to expand their scope of support for local children.

When anyone makes a donation, undertakes a challenge or sets up a fundraiser, 100 percent of the funds raised go to help support local families. As a relatively small charity, Yorkshire Children’s Trust do not receive any direct funding from the government, lottery or NHS. Their hopes are that they can continue to grow and expand to offer support for many more children and their families – but they need your help.

Yorkshire Children’s Trust need to get started on their new facilities as quickly as possible and welcome any donation, no matter how big or small, to their Birthday Appeal. Supporters can get more information at yctrust.uk/donations/birthdayappeal. They are also always looking for new schools, colleges and businesses to support them as Charity of the Year. Call 01422 728080 or email charity@yctrust458634513.wpcomstaging.com to find out how you can help.