Supporting extraordinary people, to achieve extraordinary things

Dorset’s disability charity, Diverse Abilities, supports children and adults with profound physical and learning disabilities, and their families. The charity was founded in 1955 by Mrs Phyllis Edwards, who is now 99 and still involved with the charity today.

Phyllis’ daughter Marilyn, was born in 1948 with cerebral palsy. It took two years for her disability to be diagnosed and Phyllis was told ‘put her away she will only be a cabbage’. Undeterred, Mr and Mrs Edwards discovered a need for support for local families with disabled children and wrote a letter to the Bournemouth Daily Echo. The letter received a number of responses and within two months a group was formed for parents intent on providing better opportunities for children with physical and learning disabilities. 

Now, 62 years on, the charity has grown to support over 1,500 individuals in the county by providing a range of assistance, support and education services for young people aged two to 19, adults with disabilities and their families through its Children’s Team, Adult Services, Advice Team and specialist school Langside. Through these services, the Dorset charity is dedicated to supporting the needs of children and adults today and into the future, while enabling them to experience a lifetime of opportunities and challenges.

By creating tailor made programmes of support, developed according to the needs of the individual through every transitional stage of their lives and personal development, the charity’s aim is to support extraordinary people achieve extraordinary things that they, or their families, would not have dreamed possible.

Children and adults with Diverse Abilities support take on opportunities and develop talents they might not have known existed.  For example, children that spend their school holidays with the charity go swimming, ski-bobbing, bake cakes, undertake craft activities, and those that attend our school take part in a Christmas play. Adults we support get involved in all sorts of activities. Most recently a young man took on the Bournemouth Bay Run in his wheelchair with his support worker beside him and another swam 50 lengths in a large pool with one arm.

Toby, age 16, has been supported by the charity for three years and stays overnight at the charity’s respite home, Lily’s Place, and undertakes activities during the school holidays with the charity’s Project My Time and Hangout services. This provides his family with a much-needed break as well as giving opportunities for Toby to progress and nurture his talents.

Jackie, Toby’s mum, said: “During Toby’s time with Diverse Abilities he has undertaken many activities, such as swimming, bowling, sensory fun and his big favourite - visiting Swanage Railway. He enjoys not only the activities themselves but spending time with other people, both adults and children. He always loves the activities he attends and has become remarkably accurate with his bowling and is a very good swimmer. Despite his lack of mobility, in the water he can swim very well without any help apart from supervision for safety. Not only are the services provided by the charity beneficial to Toby, it gives us as a family a break, whether it is for three hours or for an overnight stay. It enables me to do anything from the weekly shop to being able to visit the cinema with Toby's sister or, occasionally, to have a weekend away. Just having time to relax, knowing that Toby is happy and well cared for by people who he knows and who know him is fantastic for us as a family.”

As a not-for-profit organisation, Diverse Abilities needs to fundraise over £600,000 this year to ensure the charity can continue to provide services for people with disabilities in Dorset. One event to raise funds, that has taken off, was the Dorset Neon Run in Poole Park, which raised nearly £25,000. A fantastic night, where over 350 local people took on a 5km course dressed in neon bling with glow sticks.

A number of other events are taking place this year to help reach the £600,000 target. If you fancy a challenge why not take a look at the Diverse Abilities website and support a local charity? Your help is vital.

Jenny Pearce is Communications Manager at Diverse Abilities

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