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Meet the everyday superheroes

It’s BBC Children in Need time , so we’re celebrating the people who’ve changed lives for the better with your generous support

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t was 2004 when Boots first partnered with BBC Children in Need. So it’s incredible that just 15 years later, we’ve raised a massive £11.5 million to support children’s projects around the UK. Boots colleagues have done everything from holding beauty events such as Pudsey Parlours – where customers could have a No7 makeover for a donation – to undertaking sponsored challenges like climbing Conic Hill in the Scottish Highlands. This year, the money raised by Boots UK and its customers for BBC Children in Need will go on to fund projects that support disadvantaged children and young people facing adversity, by building their confidence and resilience and helping them to better believe in themselves and what they can achieve in life.

 

So, ahead of the Appeal on 16 November, we’ve spoken to some of the people who’ve already benefited from the money raised, about the charity workers (fluffy and human!) who’ve changed their lives for the better. Be prepared to feel emotional…

Our furry friend

Mum-of-three Kelly says their amazing support dog (pictured above, with Louis) with has given her autistic son so much freedom

 

‘Our support dog, Iggy, is not only a loyal companion to my son, Louis, eight, but he has also given him freedom and confidence – we’re doing things we’d never have been able to without him. At three years old, Louis was diagnosed with autism and global development delay and, although we were expecting the diagnosis, it was devastating. Deep down, I wanted someone to tell me it was wrong! Louis’s condition affects his balance and coordination and he falls over a lot, so we’d often have to put him in a wheelchair. He has no awareness of danger – he’d walk in front of a car. And his speech is limited.

 

I started looking for any interventions that might be able to help Louis, and through my research I found out about Support Dogs in Sheffield, which provides dogs to assist people with disabilities, epilepsy and autism. It sounded perfect.

 

When we got Iggy – a Labrador cross retriever – he and Louis bonded instantly. Louis hasn’t used his wheelchair since, because Iggy makes him feel safe. He has a rein that attaches to Iggy’s “jacket” so it supports him when he walks, and he can put his hand on Iggy’s back to help with his balance. More than a year ago, Louis couldn’t walk long distances, but we went to a car festival recently and we have so many photos of him laughing, walking and dancing all day. If it weren’t for Iggy, we wouldn’t even have gone.

 

Iggy has helped Louis socially, too. Recently a lady came up and asked the dog’s name and, without being prompted, Louis answered. Pre-Iggy, he wouldn’t have said anything. Iggy is Louis’s best friend – and my hero!’

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Our pillar of strength

Monika, a mum of three, credits Jules from Noah’s Ark (pictured above, with Zofia and Louisa) with helping her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, and her family get through the tough times

 

‘My daughter Zofia, now four, suffered brain damage at birth and has the most severe form of cerebral palsy. She’s unable to walk, talk or hold her head up. She has chronic lung disease, can’t eat orally and has problems with her vision.

 

I was so worried that her life would be full of suffering. But things changed when I was referred to Noah’s Ark, a hospice funded by BBC Children in Need, which provides support to children with life-limiting conditions.

 

Jules is our support worker and he visits weekly for three hours. He’s great at playing and singing with Zofia, and taking care of her medical needs such as feeding, clearing her airways and doing physio. Going out with Zofia is difficult because we have to take lots of medical equipment with us, which means we’re not able to do much as a family. But Jules’s visits mean that, for those few hours, I can do things with my other children, Louisa, Zofia’s twin, and Patrick, six. Over the past few years, there have been times when Zofia and I were in hospital more than we were at home, and doctors were telling me she might not make it. But Jules was always there, encouraging me to stay positive and supporting me.

 

When Zofia was in intensive care in Cambridge in 2016, Jules went to London, where we lived, and brought Louisa and Patrick to see me, because he could see how much I missed them. Although Zofia can’t tell us how she feels, she recognises his voice and when she hears him, she smiles straight away. When they play, I can hear her laughing, like she’s with her best friend. During times of crisis, he’s always been there for us and always will be.’

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Our life changer

Mum-of-two Lyndsey (pictured above, with daughter Lucy) says Joanne from Happy Hands has helped give her profoundly deaf daughter power to communicate

 

‘Most deaf children are diagnosed at birth, whereas my daughter Lucy, nine, who is profoundly deaf, wasn’t diagnosed until she was over two. I was worried that we’d lost so much time getting help, so when I stumbled across Happy Hands, a family support group from our local Deafness Support Centre, it was a huge relief.

 

Joanne, our family liaison officer, taught us basic sign language so we could communicate everyday phrases, numbers and colours to Lucy. Over time, we took more advanced courses.

 

Joanne would always speak to Lucy in full sign language – just as you’d speak in full sentences to a child who’s learning to talk. We could see the response in Lucy straight away, which was lovely. She was always a playful child, but before we met Joanne she was very passive. She would see hearing children playing and just do her own thing, because she couldn’t communicate with them. It was heart-breaking.

 

Having attended Happy Hands since she was five, she now oozes confidence. Even the little things have made such a difference. I’d never had a Mother’s Day card from her, but when Joanne explained it to Lucy, she made one with “I love you, Mummy,” inside – she knows what that means now. Joanne and the staff at Happy Hands have given Lucy an identity as a deaf person. When we’re there, she can relax and be with people like her. Thanks to them, she has found her voice.’

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Our ray of sunshine

Rebecca, a mum of two, says Tracy from Sebastian’s Action Trust (pictured above, with Tom and Amy) has made a world of difference to her son, who has muscular dystrophy

 

‘Everyone should have a Tracy – she’s the warmest, kindest, most loving person and has been an incredible support to us and our son Tom, 10. He was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy at four and sadly, it’s progressive – he’ll lose the ability to walk, then the use of his arms, and eventually the breathing muscles will be compromised. In a few months, he’s likely to be fully wheelchair-bound. He’s finding that hard to deal with and, as his mum, you can imagine how devastating it is to see.

 

His condition also affects his sister, Amy, six, because we can’t do normal things like go to the park or go swimming as a family. There can be a massive toll on siblings of disabled kids. That’s why finding out about Sebastian’s Action Trust (which provides emotional, social and practical support for children with life-threatening or life-limiting illnesses and their families) and meeting Tracy was such a saviour. She should be on prescription!

 

Once a month, Tom and Amy go to The Bluebells (two beautiful, purpose-built flats owned by the charity) to do activities with Tracy. They go in the hydrotherapy pool, bake, garden and do arts and crafts. The whole building is accessible so Tom can fully join in. Recently, Tracy gave them little wooden boxes and told them to write down the things that made them happy and put them in the box, then write their worries on a separate piece of paper. If they felt unable to talk about a worry, they could pop it in the box and swap it with a happy thing. She told them the box would then hold the worries until they wanted to talk to her about them – she knows children sometimes don’t want to upset their parents. Having Tracy saying, “I’m here for you,” is a great outlet for them. She regularly checks we’re all OK via text and phone, and if we’re going through a tough time, I can call her and she’ll visit. That reassurance is priceless.’

Go bright for BBC Children in Need!

On Saturday 10 November, come in store for a Go bright makeover. Visit our exclusive Pudsey pop-up make-up spot and No7 counters for colourful lip and eye looks, for a suggested £2 donation.

The bear necessities

Show your support with these adorable gifts

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Give a bear a home! Plush Blush and Plush Pudsey £7.50 each. N’aww. These Pudsey and Blush Ears, £2.50 each, will make little ones look beary cute! Make a statement with this Colour-changing Wristband*, £1. Pudsey Pin Badges in Gold and Rose Gold*, £1 each, are perfect for style gurus.

*In selected stores. †Visitboots.com/children-in-need for participating stores.

Words Rosie Benson Photo of Louis and Iggy Crucialfoto

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