Dmitry Leus: We owe it to children, especially those with special needs

Dmitry Leus: We owe it to children, especially those with special needs

We know that young people with special needs and their families have felt the lockdown restrictions even more than most.

Whether through having periods of no in-person school, reduced or even no activities and the general feeling of isolation brought about by the pandemic, this experience has been more acute for those children and young adults with special needs and also for their families.

Our foundation’s focus this year is very much on helping children and families bounce back from what we know has been a tough and isolating year for many. It is a priority for us to bring fun, learning, connection and community support to those children and families that need it most.

We have recently had a great opportunity to provide such support in a very direct way. The excellent programme run by Runnymede Special Needs Youth Club, also known as Brightlights, has recently received a grant from the Leus Family Foundation to support their work with young people with special needs in the Runnymede area.

The club is for children aged 5–13 years with special needs in Runnymede and surrounding areas. The children have disabilities ranging from autism, Asperger’s, Downs and moderate to severe learning difficulties, with some of them requiring one-to-one care.

Established in 1996, children with varying learning and physical disabilities can come to the club every Thursday evening for two hours during term time.

The youth club is known for providing a vibrant programme that includes the use of the soft play area, crafts and external outings, trips to places like the Isle of Wight, Disneyland Paris, Spain, Lapland UK, Paultons Park, Beale Park, and Legoland.

The club also holds a Christmas party every year where the children receive a visit and presents from Father Christmas. Easter eggs are also received.

Some of these activities have not been possible during the pandemic, but Brightlights has strived to support families during this time.

The charity arranged two trips to Heron Lake which allowed the children to take part in water sports and activities which they greatly enjoyed. These trips also gave the members and families the opportunity to meet up and see each other, which was most needed during this difficult time.

Lucy O’Neill, the chair of Brightlights, welcomed the contribution from the Leus Family Foundation, saying: “We are here to provide fun and recreation for young people with special needs, which can also play a helpful respite role for their parents and carers.

We are a safe environment for children who might have difficulty accessing other facilities within the local borough.

Our base at Egham Orbit Leisure Centre enables the use of the soft play area, arts and crafts activities, books and toys from our toy library. We occasionally hold family and friends evenings when parents and carers can meet and discuss family matters.

The contribution from the Leus Family Foundation will help us to keep bringing this fun and support to children and their families and we’re very grateful.”

Identifying and supporting those in our community who perhaps have suffered the most during the pandemic and therefore need our support will continue to be a major focus for the Leus Family Foundation.

It will take years, if not decades, for the world to fully understand the impact of the pandemic on our young people. In many cases they have made sacrifices in terms of education and social development in order to keep the most vulnerable safe.

Our Foundation is strongly motivated to counteract any damage to them by supporting initiatives that enrich their lives and support their families.