The fun-filled annual event is aimed at allowing disadvantaged young people to experience foreign travel
A group of young people from West London enjoyed a fun-filled week in Cyprus, thanks to a trip organised by the Harrow Club with funding from the Leus Family Foundation.
This is the second time that the two organisations have worked together to provide this trip, which has become an annual event aimed at allowing a group of young people the experience of foreign travel, as well as a packed programme of outdoor sports and activities.
The group enjoyed windsurfing, snorkelling, canoe lessons, snorkelling, a jeep safari, a Yellow Submarine trip and a visit to Ayia Napa WaterWorld water park.
All flights, meals and accommodation were provided by the Leus Family Foundation.
Working with the community since 1883
The Harrow Club has been working with the local community since 1883 and aims to address needs among young people related to disadvantage and poverty.
The club’s activities range from sports clubs to drama and dance.
Its network of clubs includes Harrow, Chelsea, Old Oak, Sands End, White City and Lancaster Road, and welcomes children and young people between the ages of eight and 21 years old.
Some 80 per cent are eligible for free school meals, 90 per cent are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20 per cent have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues.
The Leus Family Foundation has previously supported the Harrow Club with the donation of a minibus and the provision of fencing lessons and equipment.
‘Range of benefits’
Michael Defoe, CEO of the Harrow Club, spoke about the impact the Cyprus trip had on the young people attending.
He said: “We are delighted to work again with the Leus Family Foundation to make this annual trip possible for our young people.
“Some of them have never left the UK before, so participating in a programme of sports in Cyprus brings a range of benefits, from confidence-building, teamwork and the experience of a new country and culture.”
Dmitry Leus, founder of the Leus Family Foundation, added: “I had the pleasure of meeting this fantastic group of young people at the Ayia Napa WaterWorld water park.
“It’s an honour for our foundation to assist in bringing this impactful experience to them and to see them fully embracing a fun experience.”
Support the Harrow Club
If you would like to support the work of the Harrow Club, please consider a donation.
The Leus Family Foundation has donated a bariatric shower trolley to be used by older children at the hospice
Guildford-based hospice Christopher’s, a Shooting Star Children’s Hospice, has received a donation of a Bariatric shower trolley from the Leus Family Foundation.
The bariatric shower trolley will be used by older children at the hospice. Christopher’s is a purpose-built children’s hospice that opened doors in November 2001. With nine children’s bedrooms and five family flats as well as a host of specialist facilities, Christopher’s is a home-from-home for families of children with life-limiting conditions.
Jess Coombs, head of Philanthropy at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, welcomed the donation: “This incredible donation will mean that we can support the increasing number of young people with life-limiting conditions who are too large to comfortably use our standard shower trolleys at the hospice; this special adapted equipment is extremely beneficial to families who may not have the capacity to have in their own homes. This is such a wonderful addition to the hospice!”
Dmitry Leus, founder of the Leus Family Foundation, said: “We are proud to continue our support for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices. They show such dedication and do incredible work with children and their families. We are pleased to bring practical support in the form of this shower to help the team in their care of the young people at Christopher’s.”
Shooting Star Children’s Hospices
Shooting Star Children’s Hospices is children’s hospice charity supporting more than 700 children and their families, across Surrey and 14 boroughs of London, 365 days a year.
From diagnosis to end of life and throughout bereavement, the charity provides a free-of-charge holistic services supporting families with a range of nursing, practical and emotional care. This includes overnight respite stays at Christopher’s, which is rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, symptom management and pain relief, specialist nursing in the community and a comprehensive range of therapies, groups and specialist clinics from its Outreach, Therapy and Family Support Centre in Hampton, Shooting Star House.
If you would like to support the important work of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, please consider making a donation.
Shooting star children’s hospices provides inspiring levels of care for children with life-limiting conditions and their families. The leus family foundation recently visited the charity’s guildford hospice, christopher’s, to see the facilities.
Christopher’s, one of two hospices run by Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, is situated in Artington, near Guildford. The hospice is known for providing exemplary care for children with life-limiting conditions and supporting the whole family.
As the only children’s hospice in Surrey, Shooting Star Children’s Hospices cares for new-borns to 21-year-olds. The young people and their families welcomed at Christopher’s benefit from the compassion and professionalism that the CQC Outstanding rated hospice is known for. It begins with the specialist care team but extends into every element of the care and environment provided at Christopher’s.
The thought with which the hospice has been designed and equipped is striking. The philosophy behind it is to enable children to play and participate in as many activities as possible without having to leave the hospice. The corridors are wide enough to fit two wheelchairs through at the same time so those with access needs are able to move around the hospice together. Also on the walls are images of the children and their families as well as the children’s artwork, which gives Christopher’s a friendly feel and the children enjoy finding their image when walking around. Children staying have access to a hydrotherapy pool, with lights and other sensory equipment, where they can experience the benefits hydrotherapy can bring, whilst also allowing them to have fun and enjoy the water with siblings and family.
The hospice garden allows opportunities to play, for example on a specially designed trampoline built into the ground meaning it’s accessible to wheelchair users. There is an area where plants have been donated and repurposed from an award-winning garden from the Chelsea Flower Show and seating allows places to meet, talk and rest for families. A smaller, enclosed internal sensory garden allows children to roam and play freely. Inside, a kitchen, soft play room, arts and crafts area, and cinema room all add to the comfort and stimulation that Christopher’s aims to provide to children and their families. Enriching experiences, such as a visit from Santa or rabbits for petting, are arranged for the children and their siblings to enjoy. When possible, visits to venues such as Chessington World of Adventures are also arranged.
The bedrooms are designed and fully equipped to cater to the needs of the child using the room, including hoists where needed to assist the child. Each room has its own sink, wardrobe space and CCTV installed to monitor the children throughout the night, whilst ensuring they are inviting and comfortable, with colourful bedding and soft furnishings. Their position, with patio style doors backing onto the hospice garden, allows a feeling of being close to nature. The bathrooms on site have baths with jets, hoist equipment to cater for all needs of children, plus paintings and images on the ceiling. Christopher’s also has six bedrooms upstairs to allow families to stay when needed.
There are two rooms, the Willow Suites, which are peaceful bereavement suites. Hospitals currently allow families to stay with a child or baby who has passed away for two hours, however, at the hospice families can stay with their child for up to one week, giving them the chance to say goodbye. These rooms offer self-contained living, with an outlook to the memory garden, where the families can have a space to remember their children with an engraved leaf with their child’s name, hung on the memory tree’s. The suites are fully air conditioned with a cold mattress to help preserve the child’s body. Bereaved families are offered a wide range of support for three years and three months post bereavement, including counselling, therapies, family memory days, social groups, support visits and resources.
The Leus Family Foundation has recently become a supporter of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, donating Christmas presents and committing to further support in 2023. Leus Family Foundation founder Dmitry Leus said: “The level of care provided not only to ill children but also to their families is inspiring, in terms of the compassion, professionalism and quality of life that Shooting Star Children’s Hospices strives to deliver. Our Foundation is proud to support them, and I urge others to do the same. When life has been limited, it is all of our responsibility to support those who bring comfort and happy moments at terribly difficult times.”
Lisa Dennis, Director of Care at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, welcomed the support from the Leus Family Foundation, saying: “Thank you so much for the wonderful gifts the Leus Family Foundation donated this Christmas. The children were absolutely delighted, especially with the amazing sensory equipment. Thank you from everyone at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices for the Foundation’s continued support.”
If you would like to support the work of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, consider donating via their website. Families wishing to learn more about the services provided by Shooting Star Children’s Hospices can read this information in the How We Help section of their website.
The club ensures children with additional needs get the support and fun they deserve
Bright Lights Junior Youth Club is hosting some special events for its members during the festive season, including a Christmas party and a visit to Jump Giants, with support from the Leus Family Foundation.
The Youth Club, which welcomes children aged five to 13 years old with special needs from North West Surrey, held its Christmas party on December 13, with gifts from Father Christmas and games. The celebrations will continue to December 20, when the group will enjoy a visit to Jump Giants trampoline Park, which has been privatised for them by the Leus Family Foundation, so that they can enjoy the fun of the trampolines safely.
Bright Lights is known for providing a vibrant programme in addition to its on-site offerings, such as fun outings. The children have enjoyed trips to places such as the Isle of Wight, Disneyland Paris, Spain, Lapland UK, Paultons Park, Beale Park and Legoland.
In its weekly sessions, the club offers activities from soft play, arts and crafts activities, books and toys from a toy library. The children have disabilities ranging from autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Downs Syndrome, and moderate to severe learning difficulties, with some of them requiring one-to-one care.
Lucy O’Neill, the chair of Bright Lights, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer our members with these enjoyable experiences over the Christmas season. Our party is an annual highlight and seeing the children having some carefree fun at the trampoline park again will be fantastic. Our thanks to the Leus Family Foundation for their continued support.”
Dmitry Leus, founder of the Leus Family Foundation, added: “We are proud to support Bright Lights in their efforts to ensure local children with special needs enjoy all the fun of the season. We also aim to support them into the New Year with the toys and equipment they need as they transition to a new venue that does not have an existing soft play area.”
The grant will make a huge difference as local people continue to struggle
The Leus Family Foundation has made another grant to the Runnymede Foodbank to assist with the current increased need, with rising fuel, heating and food bills adding to the difficulty local families living in poverty are facing.
The manager of Runnymede Foodbank, Jenny Wardill, welcomed the recent donation: “We warmly welcome this additional support from the Leus Family Foundation. We are seeing a rise both in the volume of people needing our services and also the length of time that they need help for. We expect a challenging winter and so this assistance from Dmitry Leus and his foundation is greatly appreciated.”
The foodbank has noted higher demand across its six sites which operate five days a week, with the warehouse teams delivering and dispatching three to four times per week.
The organisation has also seen that clients are becoming more long term, sometimes needing to visit the foodbank for up to 12 weeks. There are fears that this is a sign of families and individuals falling into deeper poverty, with longer term needs.
The Runnybank Foodbank has also been very active in helping families through the school holidays to ensure that children most in need have access to food.
At the beginning of July, 400 food4lunch bags were sent out to families of children who use free school meals. The bags contained ingredients and recipes to supply them with two weeks’ worth of hot meals for the child. This school holiday preparation cuts down the demand slightly but then picks up again towards the end of August and the month of September.
During the summer, there are around 70-100 visitors, who are visiting to feed families of four or five. Numbers then rise to 200 or 300. Visitors double towards the end of the summer compared to the start. The Chertsey site is open for two hours and it was getting 10-15 clients. Now it is seeing 20-30 clients for families of varying sizes.
In addition, the foodbank has employed an advisor from the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), a valuable resource to support and advise clients with the aim of improving their situation.
Dmitry Leus, founder of the Leus Family Foundation, said: “We are long term supporters of the Runnymede Foodbank and we see how crucial their work is. Our Foundation aims to provide opportunity to the most vulnerable children and of course that starts with the most basic requirement – that they not face hunger. We also want to help alleviate the enormous stress on parents if they are not able to put food on the table for their family.
“I do encourage anyone else who is able to donate to think of Runnymede and make a contribution if they can, especially as we look towards a difficult winter for many.”
From foodbanks to youth clubs, organisations across Britain are getting a boost from a body with just one mission: to make a positive change in children’s lives
The hopes and dreams of future generations have never seemed more relevant.
With the cost of living rising, and families across the country feeling the crunch, it is especially vital that children of all backgrounds are given the opportunity to help shape the future. And that’s the principle at the heart of the Leus Family Foundation.
Founded in 2018, the organisation supports disadvantaged and vulnerable young people throughout the UK, helping in settings including hospitals, charities, foodbanks and youth clubs.
“As a society we should be investing in every child. Every child deserves opportunity and to feel valued. If we invest in children, we are investing in all of our futures,” says founder Dmitry Leus. “We know that some children – whether they are born into poverty, have special needs or suffer an illness – need an extra boost in order to fulfil their potential. That is our mission at the foundation: to make a positive impact on their lives and to give them a sense of possibility.”
Take the Bright Lights Youth Club in Surrey, for instance, which caters for children aged five to thirteen who have special needs in the boroughs of Runnymede and Spelthorne. The children here live with moderate-to-severe learning difficulties, autism, Asperger’s and Down’s, with some requiring one-to-one care. Children come to the club every Thursday evening for two hours during term time.
Now, funding from the Leus Family Foundation means that they enjoy additional toys and facilities, including sensory light equipment, special chairs, mats, computers and books. And thanks to the foundation, Bright Lights has been able to stay open during the summer holidays for the first time, and the children have been swimming at nearby Heron Lake and have visited the local Jump Giants trampoline centre.
“It is especially meaningful for us to be able to provide these outings, knowing how much pleasure the children will get from these fun experiences,” adds Leus, who has four sons of his own. “We shouldn’t underestimate children’s need for fun and play and the healing effects it can have.”
This philosophy undoubtedly has its roots in the founder’s own childhood in Turkmenistan. Back then, there were only two reliable escape routes for children seeking more than their meagre birthright – science or sport.
“Turkmenistan was incredibly poor,” he says. “The shops were usually empty, so bread and margarine were our staples, and on a lucky day, canned meat. There was no hot running water, only cold, switched on for 90 minutes a day.”
It wasn’t only money that was tight – hope and aspiration were in short supply too. But encouraged by a local fencing coach, young Dmitry picked up a foil and discovered a natural ability.
Fencing transformed my life, I love to see the same positive impact taking place with children
“I trained hard, striving to be the best,” Leus says. “I was motivated, I wanted to get on and, while I did spend time hanging around the streets as a teenager, it was significantly less than kids without a focus like fencing.”
By the time he became European Fencing Champion at the age of 17, his training had shown him how important it is for young people to have the tools and opportunities to improve their lives and learning.
It’s an ethos he’s also now sharing with disadvantaged kids in Brixton, south-east London. As patron and honorary president of Brixton Fencing Club, the foundation funds free lessons and equipment for children from low-income families and organises tournaments. The Imperium Sessions are designed to encourage participation by children from backgrounds who might not otherwise have access to a sport like fencing.
“There is a future Olympic champion in Brixton,” Leus says confidently. “Sport can play a transformative role in a person’s life. It is not only about excelling at the sport itself. For our foundation to help in any small way to get kids exercising, building confidence and learning the skills and discipline that we gain from sport – for me that is incredibly meaningful. Fencing transformed my own life as a child and I love to see the same impact taking place with children in London.”
It’s attitudes like these that inspired the gift of a minibus to the Harrow Club in west London, which offers sports, drama and dance to more than 500 children, refugees and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some 80 per cent of the participants are eligible for free school meals, 90 per cent are from ethnic minority backgrounds and 20 per cent have been diagnosed with learning difficulties or disability issues. And from September, the club will be providing free fencing lessons, with the Leus Family Foundation donating equipment and funding a professional coach. The bus will be vital in getting children to and from classes.
The common theme throughout all of the foundation’s work is that each child deserves the best start that society can give them.
“A child does not get to choose their circumstances,” Leus says. “And when they suffer illness or poverty or disability, we all have a responsibility to boost their opportunities.”
With altruism fired by empathy and experience, that’s a responsibility Leus has woven into the very backbone of the Leus Family Foundation.