Sam's Place charity is a lifeline for Fylde coast families

Parents of young people with different abilities have praised a small Blackpool charity for being a lifeline during a turbulent year of lockdowns.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:55 am
Updated Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:45 pm
Sam's Place charity is based on Church Street, Blackpool

Families said they ‘felt cared for and not alone’ when Sam’s Place adapted to virtual sessions during the pandemic to continue its support for young people with disabilities, special

educational needs (SEN) and autism.

Now the charity – which is based in a room at the headquarters of another local charity, Aiming Higher, on Church Street in Blackpool – has plans to expand.

Archie Hudson and Georgia Curley

Helen Hay, Sam’s Place executive director, said: “In March 2020, Covid-19 put a pause on face to face sessions.

"Whilst our two part-time staff were furloughed, our loyal volunteer Stephanie Woodhead started making weekly calls to families.

“Our families told us our calls and weekly art and crafts online were vital and we were their only support during the pandemic.

“We want to develop and expand so we can support many more families across Blackpool and the Fylde Coast.”

Danielle Camm and Kiera Whiteley

The charity was founded following the death of nine-year-old Sam Ronson, from Hambleton, in 2007.

Sam was born with congenital cytomegalovirus, a condition that left him with severe disabilities which meant it was impossible for him and his family to go on holiday together.

Sam regularly attended Brian House Children’s Hospice in Bispham – and it was following a conversation between Sam’s mum Carla and founder of the hospice Dr David Cooper that the

idea of Sam’s Place was born.

Conor Machen

The charity was initially founded with the hope of building a £2m respite centre on the Fylde coast for families in a similar situation to Sam’s.

But planning restrictions, legal complications and similar facilities already being built led to the charity exploring a different way of helping local, vulnerable young people.

Sam’s Place offers a number of different services, including the RISE (Respect, Independence, Social, Engagement) Project, which gives young people aged 15 and over the opportunity

to gain life skills through weekly activities such as preparing meals, dance, art and crafts, and learning how to manage money.

Kieran Morrison with Ann Hardisty

The charity also runs the Work Experience Project, which sources placements in businesses for students at Highfurlong School and Park Community Academy.

Face-to-face sessions are now back up and running at Sam’s Place:

The RISE enterprise group met during the summer and made gifts to sell at a pop-up stall at The Plant Place.

And the RISE social group meets at the Church Street headquarters on Mondays from 5pm until 7pm during term-time.

Sam’s Place also offers parental support.

Vanessa Machen, from North Shore, whose son Conor attends sessions run by Sam’s Place, said: “During lockdown the team at Sam’s Place called every week and offered support to

Young people take part in activities at Sam's Place

parents as well as providing online activities for the young people.

“Lockdown was tough but I felt cared for, supported and not alone.”

New members and volunteers are welcome.

Helen added: “We are a very small charity at present but our ultimate aim is to have our own premises for Sam’s Place so we can run our enterprise sessions all year round and have our

own shop.

“We want to develop links with the local community and businesses, to have more pop-up shops and to become more self-sufficient. This is not only rewarding financially but will also give

our young people a huge sense of pride and belonging in seeing what they can achieve.”

Visit www.samsplace.uk

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Staff and volunteers Michael Thwaites, Helen Hay, Joanne Thwaites, Ann Hardisty and Stephanie Woodhead