Diverse Abilities is the only charity in Dorset that supports children and adults with profound physical and/or learning disabilities, and their families. During 2015 the charity is very proud to be celebrating its 60th anniversary and how, over the past six decades, Diverse Abilities has grown to support over 600 children and adults in the county.
The charity was founded by Phyllis Edwards, who is now 97 and is still involved with the charity today. Phyllis, and her husband John’s, daughter Marilyn, was born in 1948 with cerebral palsy and 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 in 1955. 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.
The first meeting was held in Mrs Edwards’ front room and the charity, known then as the Bournemouth, Poole & District Spastics Society, was formed and a committee appointed. The Mayor of Bournemouth (Councillor D.N. Willoughby) was the first president of the group and offered his support and a number of prominent people in the town accepted his invitation to become members.
Sixty years on, the charity now supports over 600 children and adults with disabilities across Dorset and enables them to reach their full potential through a range of services and is proud to offer a lifetime partnership to the people it supports.
The charity continues to support Marilyn, Phyllis’ daughter, to this day. She lives in one of the charity’s supported living bungalows and visits its day opportunities centre, Barnabas.
Phyllis Edwards, Diverse Abilities founder, said: “Looking at the charity now, it is remarkable to think that the whole organisation came into being as a result of a small advertisement in the Bournemouth Daily Echo in 1955. I am proud to have started such an amazing charity and I hope its work can continue long into the future so more people with disabilities flourish and live happy, independent lives.”
As part of the 60th year celebrations Diverse Abilities is encouraging the local community to get involved with the charity and there are many ways that people of all ages can join the charity celebrate during its commemorative diamond year.
Diverse Abilities would like to hear from anyone that have been involved with the charity, supported them in the past, have memories or interesting stories. Also, are you or someone you know turning 60 this year and fancy celebrating while supporting a great charity? Perhaps you might like to cycle 60 miles in 60 days, swim 60 lengths, not eat chocolate or drink alcohol for 60 days, donate 60 minutes by volunteering, spare 60 minutes salary… the choice is endless!
Or perhaps you’d like to challenge yourself and help raise funds for the charity as part of its £600,000 fundraising target for 2015. Be one of its 60 skydivers on 15 June or take part in the Poole Harbour Abseil (7 June), It’s a Knockout (28 June), Spinnaker Tower Abseil (5 July), Dragon Boat Race (19 July), or the Bournemouth Festival of Running (3/4 Oct). There are also many other challenges to set yourself.
Other events that will help fundraise for the charity, to ensure it can continue to support hundreds of children and adults in Dorset, include a 60s Elvis Hawaii Party in March; a diamond gala ball in November; the Great Dorset Vintage Bake Sale in May and the World Cup Rugby Lunch, with celebrity guest speakers, in September.
Jenny Pearce, communications manager at Diverse Abilities, said: “We are very excited about our 60th anniversary year and looking forward to all the plans that are in place. It costs the charity £16,000 per day to run, therefore by taking part in our events and getting involved will really help make a difference and you personally will be supporting the future of the charity. We have many events and initiatives planned in 2015, there’s definitely going to be something for everyone. If you would like to be involved, please do get in touch.”
Please contact Jenny Pearce on 01202 718266 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to get involved with Diverse Abilities during its celebratory diamond year.