19 year old Paul loves the variety of activities on offer through the Friday Night Project.
“I love going swimming. And we did a talent show – ‘YMCA’s Got Talent’! I did a dance,” he says with an enormous smile.
Paul has ADHD and Autism. A couple of years ago, mum Carol was concerned at how insular and solitary his life was. She didn’t feel confident about him going out and knew that he needed more social interaction than just the sibling support of his brothers.
The Friday Night Project is the YMCA’s accessible sports and social club for young people with mild to moderate learning disabilities. This year, 51 young people and 16 volunteers have taken part in numerous trips and events. They have had trips to Redhill Aerodrome and to see STOMP in London, played golf, had a barbecue, watched an ice hockey match and much more.
Paul’s family have seen his confidence and physical stamina grow enormously.
He recently achieved his Bronze Gateway Award. Developed by Mencap and delivered by YMCA East Surrey, the award scheme encourages well-being and independence in those with disabilities through participation in sport, social activities and volunteering.
One particular highlight for Paul was a cake sale at Redhill’s Total Gas and Power. He had to think of the concept, set up and head a planning meeting at the company, make posters, cook and run the event. It was a huge challenge.
“I was proud of myself,” says Paul. “Maybe I will do something like that as a job.”
For the second summer, the Friday Night Project has been working as a volunteer befriender for younger teens. creating even better social and sporting opportunities for young people with disabilities in East Surrey.
Paul now has an active social life with his friends at the club. His judgement and communication skills are maturing, he’s physically stronger and suffers less frustration.
“There has been a huge transformation in Paul since he started coming to the Friday Night Project,” agrees Carol. “He’s far more active, he speaks out more and his eye contact is better – all our friends and family have commented on it.”
“We couldn’t be more delighted.”