Samantha Cameron and Paralympians ‘bowled over’ by work of disability charity Vitalise
Samantha Cameron and Paralympic medal winners David Smith and Dan Bentley visited disability charity Vitalise this morning, where they joined guests and volunteers for a game of the Paralympic sport, Boccia.
The Paralympic medallists showed the guests and volunteers at the Jubilee Lodge respite break centre in Chigwell how it’s done as they passed on tips, shared tactics and chatted about their Paralympic experiences.
The visit came as Mrs Cameron was named as the new Patron of the charity which provides holiday-style breaks with care for people with disabilities and carers at its three UK centres.
Samantha Cameron said:
“I am thrilled to visit Jubilee Lodge and to see for myself the incredible work carried out by the staff and volunteers that makes such a difference to the lives of people with disabilities and their carers.
“Today’s game of Boccia is a great example of the activities that Vitalise organises to enable people with disabilities to share new experiences, socialise and have fun.
“I am honoured to become a patron of Vitalise and to support this innovative charity.”
Boccia is an accessible ball sport, similar to bowls, designed to be played by people with disabilities affecting motor skills. Boccia was added to Vitalise’s range of inclusive social, recreational and sporting activities in the wake of the London Paralympics.
Team GB’s David Smith commented:
“It was awesome to be able to come here and demonstrate Boccia to Samantha Cameron and the other guests at Jubilee Lodge. We had a great game too. The Paralympics did such a lot of good in raising awareness about disability issues and as a Paralympian myself I really want that amazing wave of enthusiasm to continue. So I was overjoyed when Vitalise took up Boccia at their centres. We need to keep the flame burning!”
Samantha Cameron’s support comes at a significant time for Vitalise, as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of its foundation in July 1963. The charity is planning an extensive programme of events to mark its golden jubilee, including special Birthday Weeks at its centres (commencing on 6 July), the release of a commemorative book and celebratory videos, and culminating in a gala reception at City Hall in September.
Vitalise Chair of Trustees Mindy Sawhney said:
“We feel privileged to receive the support of Samantha Cameron as our new Patron in our 50th anniversary year.
“Vitalise provides breaks with care for thousands of people with disabilities and carers each year, but there are many thousands more in need of our support.
“As we launch a major new fundraising campaign to build more centres and reach out to more people in need of respite than ever before, we are pleased that we can count on Mrs Cameron’s support.”
Vitalise is a national charity providing essential respite breaks for people with disabilities – including Alzheimer’s and dementia – and carers at Jubilee Lodge and two other accessible centres in Southampton and Southport, with 24-hour nursing care on-call, personal support and a range of accessible excursions, activities and entertainment.
Jubilee Lodge guest Gary Gibney, 42, from Orpington, said:
“I can’t tell you how important my breaks here are. It’s one of the only times I feel like I matter, like I’m in the middle of things. I go home rejuvenated and I’m counting the days until I can come back.”
Vitalise runs the largest residential volunteer programme of any UK charity, welcoming over 2,000 residential volunteers annually to its centres, 83% of whom are between 16 and 25 years old. Over 4,200 volunteer weeks are spent each year at Vitalise’s centres.
Jubilee Lodge volunteer Mia Cruikshank, 16, from Scotland, said:
“Volunteering at Vitalise has truly been an eye opener into the lives of disabled people with its many challenges and hardships. I have met some wonderful and interesting people who have taught me a lot and I have learnt many new skills which will help me in life.”