Holidays for families with additional needs
310. Maureen Thomas
Spent the last 25 years helping over 3000 children with special needs and their families enjoy the rest and relaxation of a holiday or a day out.
Maureen Thomas, from Seaforth, near Bootle, started organising holidays and days out for children with physical and mental disabilities and their families after the loss of her son inspired her to help others in her local community. She went on to set up her own charity ‘Kids Konnect’ which has helped over 3000 children with special needs and from disadvantaged backgrounds enjoy holidays that give them the opportunity to take part in fun filled outdoor activities, with all the necessary support in place so that the families can enjoy a break. She also arranges special one-off holidays for terminally-ill children who cannot go as part of a group.
Maureen Thomas’ son Christopher had serious health problems from birth and it is through this experience she became aware of how difficult it was for families with children who need on-going medical care to go on holiday or to go out together. When Christopher tragically passed away in 1993 at the age of 14, she began to organise group holidays and excursions for families whose children needed additional support to enjoy a family holiday or day out.
Maureen, who is a well-known figure in the Bootle area, has inspired thousands of local people over the years to volunteer for her charity. A dedicated charity shop in Orrell Park is staffed by volunteers six days a week to raise funds for the holidays, Christmas hampers and toys for families in desperate need. All of the holidays each year are held at the Blaen Wern Farm Trust, in Llanybydder, Carmarthenshire with the help of volunteer staff, including doctors and nurses where needed.
While on holiday children are able to participate in numerous activities, including canoeing, pet therapy, nature trails, film nights, swimming, days at the beach, crabbing, theme parks and cake decorating. All the children can create their own memory book, providing the children, families and carers with a keepsake of their holiday.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Many families will enjoy holidays and days out together this summer, but for families of children who are sick or disabled even a short trip can be too challenging. Through Kids Konnect, Maureen has given thousands of sick children and their families the opportunity to enjoy trips out together that many families take for granted. That time together is an invaluable gift and I’m delighted to recognise her service with the UK’s 310th Point of Light award.”
“I’m very privileged to receive this award on behalf of the whole team that put so much time and effort into Kids Konnect – I couldn’t do any of it without their help. For all of us, the biggest rewards come in giving the children hope that life can be better, even for a week or two, and seeing how much they enjoy themselves, especially if they have never had a holiday before, or indeed, it’s their last holiday. It’s been a team effort every step of the way, and to see our work recognised and makes me very proud.”
MP for Bootle, Peter Dowd, said:
“I’m delighted that Maureen has been given a Point of Light award by the Prime Minister which is richly deserved. Maureen is a point of light not just to our community in general but also to the many individual people and families she has helped and supported over the years.”