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Written on 9th March 2021 by Julie Marsh

Julie Marsh, senior associate - solicitor in the medical negligence team, recently caught up with Shaun Polly, Liz McDaniel and Vicky Fisher of Me2 Club, a fabulous local charity which supports children and young people with additional needs in accessing mainstream activities.

Boyes Turner have been an active supporter of Me2 Club in the last 12 months, and Julie Marsh and Vicky Fisher caught up in a video interview at the beginning of lockdown to learn about how the charity suddenly had to adapt as the COVID pandemic took hold.

It was fantastic to hear about the continued great work Me2 Club has been doing, especially supporting families during the February half term with interactive activities to take part in whilst lockdown continued.

Me2 Club has continued to send activity packs to families, especially to help support those who struggle with online sessions whilst also continuing their online offering to the children and young people who have come to rely on the support from the team at Me2 Club.

In an effort to keep everybody physically active during lockdown 3.0, the Charity ran an exercise session for children, teenagers and volunteers, to work on co-ordination skills and keep everybody moving.

The Me2 Club staff and volunteers have also been involved in running pizza making sessions together on Zoom, focussing on building independence and practising life skills for those involved.

At the end of the half term week, the Charity hosted a Greatest Showman themed party for families and volunteers. The session included lots of interactive magic tricks and party games, and the children very much enjoyed dancing around and having fun. The performance used Makaton throughout to make sure it was as inclusive as possible.

In January of this year, the Charity decided to take stock of the work that they had accomplished during the lockdowns of 2020, and put out feelers with the families they were supporting to see how they were coping and what support they felt they needed from the Me2 Club team. 

The review highlighted that other support lines had fizzled out, and so it was even more important for the Charity to continue to support families of those children and young people with additional needs during the lockdown, and whilst mainstream services and activities were still not available. It is testament to the great work the team do, that referrals have continued to flood in to the Charity from across Reading and Wokingham, and what has been great about the lockdown is that everyone is able to access the online activities the Charity can offer if they want. It is a great way for the Me2 Club team to widen the level of support they can offer.

Over the Christmas period, the staff at Me2 Club also carried out parent surveys and guided interviews, and offered parent mornings so that people could get to know the team at the Charity, and build relationships.

Even 12 months in, the Charity continued to be surprised that they are still reaching more families, and that the need for support is continuing.

In normal circumstances, between September and December the Charity has their main recruitment drive for volunteers. Over that time Vicky, Jess and Nikki would usually attend school assemblies and talk to potential volunteers about the benefits of helping at Me2 Club.

Again, the Charity has had to adapt this process, but have created videos for virtual assemblies, and continue to keep connections with local schools to try to access the volunteer base. During September and October this was so successful that they were able to run a socially distant training session, and a further online training session in November. 30 new volunteers have joined the Me2 Club support network, and have been able to get involved in the online activities the Charity has been able to offer, supporting those that need it the most.

The focus has now turned towards Easter, and continuing to plan more activities over the Easter period. The Charity hopes to be able to offer further entertainment, using local outside businesses to provide this. However, this will only be able to go ahead with additional funding support.

Shaun Polly, chief executive at Me2 Club told Julie that he expects the role of the Charity to change somewhat in the future, as mainstream activities start to return once lockdown measures are eased. There will need to be conversations with activity providers around those children with additional needs, to ensure that those children are not excluded because of COVID restrictions and guidance.

The impact on community fundraising has been considerable during the last year, and so the Charity has been very grateful for corporate support from local businesses over the last 12 months. But there is always a need for more funds to meet the growing demand for support. If you are able to support the charity in any way, please contact them via their website here.

It was also great to hear that the Charity’s fantastic work was acknowledged recently by the Get Berkshire Active organisation, where the Charity won a Get Berkshire Active Berkshire Lockdown Physical Activity Hero award. They were also finalists in the UK Youth Inspiring Hope Award this year. Both are fantastic recognition of the amazing work that the Charity has been able to continue to provide, despite lockdown restrictions.

If you would like to learn more about Me2 Club and the support they can offer, please click here to access their website.