Seven-year-old Vicky squeals with excitement when she greets her friends at Yippee.
Mum, Sharon, says: “Vicky counts down the days to each session. She absolutely loves coming and really missed seeing her friends when Yippee couldn’t run earlier in the year.”
Genetic testing after Vicky suffered from fits as a baby showed a microdeletion in Chromosome 16, causing delayed development in speech, language and motor skills. She also has hypermobility, meaning that her joints have an unusually large range of movement.
Yippee is YMCA East Surrey’s warm and welcoming playscheme for children aged 5-11 with a wide range of disabilities and complex needs. Sessions were suspended during lockdown, but we began a reduced service again for the summer holidays as soon as restrictions eased.
“Vicky can’t easily access other activities,” says Sharon. “The one-to-one care she needs restricts what she can do outside school. Yippee provides her with a safe playing environment to let off steam and interact with other children at weekends or during the school holidays.”
“She’s such a sociable, bubbly, friendly and caring child. The YMCA staff love her, and they say she lights up the room when she arrives. Vicky needs this time to be away from us, as much as we benefit from having a break too.”
Lockdown proved a challenge for Sharon as she tried to keep Vicky happy and occupied. “We were fortunate in that Vicky was able to continue going to school,” says Sharon, “but finding things to do at home was difficult. Even though Vicky is better at playing on her own as she gets a little older, she can get frustrated and
aggressive if she doesn’t want to do something and messy play, which she adores, is so much harder to organise at home!”
YMCA Senior Disability Coordinator, Rob Felgate, offered Sharon and her husband a supportive ear during lockdown, should they need it. “We knew how hard it would be for our Yippee families to manage without the sessions,” he says. “We kept in touch by phone and sent out activity packs, as well as posting stories, recipes, word searches, and more online. Regular Zoom meetings helped us to interact with the children and their parents and carers.
I wasn’t sure about the Zoom sessions initially, but Vicky thought the disco was fantastic. She didn’t even stop dancing to say hello to her brother who arrived for a visit!
Now that YMCA East Surrey can again offer face-to-face Yippee outings to members, Vicky is delighted that she can meet up with her friends once more.
“She loves all the outdoor activities,” says Sharon. “The wetter and muddier the better! The staff are understanding, encouraging and supportive. They
know exactly how to look after Vicky. When she comes home, she is tired and rosy-cheeked because she won’t have stopped running.”
“Yippee gives Vicky the chance to learn without limits.”