This year’s charitable causes are:
Kentish Retts Angels. Kassie was born 20 years ago a normal, bouncing, happy little girl. However, almost overnight Kassie lost the few skills she had developed. By the age of 3 she would smash her head into walls, doors and glass windows. She had epileptic fits, was unable to speak, seemed to have little understanding, was incontinent and suffered terrible bouts of anxiety and shaking spells. Her parents had no idea what was happening or why. Kassie received various diagnoses including autism, global developmental delay and cerebral palsy but none fitted exactly what was happening. Eventually after Kassie, age 10, was featured on the BBC 6 o’clock News someone asked if she had been tested for Rett Syndrome – they had spotted that she was wringing her hands, a classic symptom of the incurable illness. After a blood test Kassie’s parents had the answer. Kassie now relies on them for 24 hour care.
After her diagnosis Kassie’s parents founded Kentish Retts Angels that now supports over 20 families. They use Facebook for contact and to help new parents whose daughters have been diagnosed with Rett Syndrome. The group meets up twice a year, once for a big Christmas party and then in the summer.
Westbere Sailing Opportunities was founded by the late David James MBE in 2001 with the sole purpose of giving an enjoyable experience of sailing to people of all ages with disabilities. The group operates on the spectacularly beautiful Westbere Lake and participants not only have the chance to learn to sail but the opportunity of seeing a whole host of wildlife. WSO has a fleet of 13 sailing dinghies to suit a range of abilities and needs. As confidence grows, pupils are able to take control of the ropes or even try their hand at the helm. One boat can be sailed by ‘sip and puff’ or joystick control system and those pupils with reasonable upper-body capability may sail single handed. No-one is too disabled to have a go and WSO has a hoist to help transfer the severely disabled from their chair to the boat.
WSO is run by an enthusiastic and dedicated team of 40 volunteers committed to making the pupils’ time at Westbere as safe and as much fun as possible. The group are on the lake most Thursdays and Fridays from April to the end of October.