On Friday 13th October we held our AGM, annual Cash Quest for Carers Awards and celebrated our 1st Birthday in Beaverbrooks House. Over 100 carers and supporters attended the event that featured presentations by staff and heart-warming testimonials by carers of all ages with the warmest applause won by a 13-year-old schoolboy who revealed how alone and broken he felt looking after his mum. Gazette Best of Health Carer of the Year, Adam Simpson, also spoke movingly about looking after his wife Laura.
Former young carers’ champions Tara Bragg, 22, and Liam Quinn, 17, both now apprentices at the charity, announced the new champ Rachel Lambert, 26, at the charity’s 1st Birthday Bash at Beaverbrooks House. The hotshot photographer and crackshot markswoman has sights firmly set on raising awareness for carers – as someone who’s been “on the receiving end”, as she puts it.
Rachel explains: “If you support carers you help those they care for too. It goes hand in hand.” Rachel, is a former pupil of leading local special/extended educational needs school Highfurlong where her mum Joan teaches.
Rachel was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and spent two years of her early life on a ventilator.
Today she leads a very active life on her own terms with the support of family, friends and her own carers. “I don’t think disability should stand in your way. If you want to do something find a way of doing it.” Rachel was nominated as a Positive Role Model in the Disability Category of the National Diversity Awards last year.
She’s already a charity ambassador, an accomplished photographer, sportswoman and performance artist.
Rachel’s a crackshot too, bagging 10 gold medals and a silver in shooting contests – using a tripod on a spring to counter balance the weight of the rifle while firing from her wheelchair at targets 10m away.
The former Blackpool Sixth Form student had what it took to become a Paralympian but focussed on her passion for photography instead, graduating from Lancaster University with an Honours degree. Rachel plans to use that expertise along with social media skills in her year in office. She knows the ropes having worked as a volunteer there for six months. The charity also actively supports 16-19-year-old students at SEN schools across Blackpool on various work experience placement at local businesses. “For me, it’s all about being treated equally,” says Rachel who will bring that sense of fair play and social justice to fighting the corner for young carers.
Rachel is also Voluntary Events and Project Co-ordinator for the Ormerod Trust – working with people with learning disabilities.
Michelle Smith, Chief Executive of Blackpool Carers, said: “Rachel brings some exceptional skills to the role and a real determination to do something fresh and different. We think she will bring a unique perspective to the role of Young Carers’ Champion.”
Rachel concludes: “I know I’ve got some tough acts to follow and a busy year ahead. I’ve been on the receiving end of care so will bring a fresh new approach. Hopefully!”
More than 200 people attended including Blackpool Mayor Coun Ian Coleman who has adopted Blackpool Carers Centre as his main civic charity for his year in office.
The party, which featured a spectacular themed cake, also celebrated the end of this year’s Cash Quest for Carers. In three months 24 teams have raised more than £18k to fund the YCC post and allied services.
The Sandcastle WaterPark team, fronted by mascot Bling and marketing lead Mark Wilkins, made the biggest splash, raising £10k. Carl Vidoretti of CV Maintenance Solutions won the Most Innovative Award after organising golf tournaments and a bonus ball draw on social media to win a football shirt signed by Charlie Adam. Carl and fellow DIY SOS volunteer John Greene have also continued to work at the centre along with others from the programme.
All in all a fantastic day and we hope everyone that attended enjoyed themselves!