Grove Cottage volunteer Debra Barton organises Christmas party for special needs children and their families
Children and their families who use the services provided by Bishop’s Stortford Mencap charity Grove Cottage got the festive feeling at a Christmas party hosted in their honour.
The youngsters, who either attend Grove Cottage’s special needs nursery or are members of its weekend and school holiday clubs, were treated to a few hours of festive frivolity including a visit from Father Christmas.
The party was organised by Debra Barton, a Grove Cottage volunteer and employee of Stortford-based funeral firm Daniel Robinson and Sons, who contacted Grove Cottage a few months ago to say she would like to host an event for the charity’s youngest members.
Debra, who in 2018 did a fundraising skydive to raise funds for the Mencap centre in London Road, said: “I've been involved with Grove Cottage for many years as a volunteer and feel very passionate about what they do. I began volunteering at the Thursday night adult club and am still involved, indirectly supporting an autistic girl with speech and language skills.
“I wanted to provide a Christmas party for these children and their families, free from stigma. A time where the whole family can enjoy a space to just be themselves and not feel any pressure to be quicker or quieter. A time and space where parents can watch their children enjoy the magic of Christmas whilst they get an opportunity to engage with each other.”
Grove Cottage operations manager Jocelin Warren said: “We were so thrilled when Debra contacted us and offered to hold a party for younger members at Grove Cottage nursery and Saturday clubs. This was a fantastic opportunity for our families to come together and meet others in a similar situation.”
In addition to a disco and spread of festive food, the party at St Michael’s Mead Community Centre featured a Santa’s grotto where each child received a gift and had their photo taken.
“It can often be difficult to take a child who has additional needs to see Father Christmas. However, at the party the children were able to spend as much or as little time in the grotto without their parents having to worry,” Jocelin said.
“We're so grateful to Debra for all the hard work she put into the party and cannot thank her enough for making this special event so wonderful. We would also like to thank Daniel Robinson and Sons for donating towards the event and to Nutty Pics for providing the photography.”
James Horrax, whose son Noah attends the special needs nursery, said: “Noah had a great time at the party and he was very excited to see Father Christmas. It was lovely to be able to do this in an environment that was sympathetic to his needs as most Christmas parties can be quite intimidating and difficult for children like Noah.”