The Blue Watch

133. Darren Dresser (Sunderland)

A remarkable teenager has overcome his own challenges to inspire young people with learning difficulties in Sunderland.

At just 4 years old, an operation saw 18 year old Darren Dresser lose all the strength in his legs and confine him to a wheelchair. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 5. Having been supported by the Blue Watch Youth Centre, Darren began volunteering there two years ago, acting as a mentor to younger people and running workshops. The Centre, a registered charity, is run by young people for young people in the Ryhope and St Michael’s areas of Sunderland. Through his volunteer sessions, Darren supports over 100 young people a week who have learning disabilities and has had a huge impact 40 young people with special needs he supports.

Darren, who lives at home with his mother Wendy who gives him constant care and support, started to visit the Blue Watch Youth Centre when he was 11 and became a mentor with Blue Watch at 16, supporting staff to run courses for young people. Darren now is a permanent volunteer who has volunteered over 800 hours, delivering a wide range of courses including a DJ-ing course as well as workshops on health, hygiene and staying safe. Darren also delivers a cookery class for young people and also recently became a volunteer with the over 25s young group, quickly gaining the respect of people older than him through his patience and support.

Darren’s time as a volunteer has given him a huge confidence boost and as a result he is now attending college in order to gain the Maths and English qualifications that he failed to achieve in school.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“Thanks to a great attitude and a lot of determination, Darren has overcome challenging personal circumstances, to make a huge contribution through volunteering. I’m delighted to name Darren a Point of Light.”

Darren said:

“I am so happy to be receiving this award for doing something that I really enjoy. I have made lots of friends while volunteering at Blue Watch Youth Centre and I hope that others will follow in my footsteps and support groups like this.”

Wendy Burrell Darren Mums said:

“I am so overjoyed that my son has been chosen for this award, Darren has always enjoyed his time at Blue Watch Youth Centre and at the age of 18 he was due to leave and move on but Darren then became a volunteer and has gone from Strength to Strength and has grown into a very confident young man. I am very proud of him.”

Joanne Ayre said: Disability Co-Ordinator for Blue Watch Youth Centre said:

“Darren has always been an inspiration to the other members and staff here. He has had to overcome many things in his life but never takes life for granted. Darren is a very friendly approachable young man which was why he was offered the volunteering course. Darren learns others to enjoy life and that everyone regardless of ability can achieve. Darren has grown so much in the last seven years and still makes us proud.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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