TEAM OF PRIDE 2023
Winner: Music Man Project - David Stanley
David Stanley began working with people with learning disabilities 24 years ago when he befriended a young man with Downs Syndrome. David played him the piano and sang to him. The reaction he got back in return so inspired David that, with Southend Mencap, he sought out more learning-disabled people to teach. He promised his new students that one day they would play the Royal Albert Hall. Twenty years later David fulfilled his promise when he presented two hundred of his students from across the UK at the Royal Albert Hall in a show called "Music is Magic". In the years between, David established The Music Man Project as a separate charity and enabled his students to perform twice at the London Palladium, to break a world record and perform to members of the Royal Family. His father Roland wrote to us and said “David has helped Southend, Essex and the UK become a global exporter of accessible music-making. His next dream is a performance on Broadway and a purpose-built headquarters in Essex – the first of its kind in the UK.
I am deeply proud of my son and can think of no more deserving candidate for a Pride of Essex Award”.
Highly Commended: 'Forget-Me-Not'
Based in Rochford, the Day centre is for adults with learning disabilities and additional needs. The centre also Provides support for twenty living houses. The staff act as one big family,
planning lots of days out and activities, as well as teaching life skills and helping in the local community with volunteering projects. They are committed to ensuring that all individuals
receive the highest quality care and support. The enthusiastic Team that run the Centre arrange their own fund raising to cover taking their group to fun filled outings. As well as raising
monies for the outings they also raise funds for local charities and businesses who support the SEN community.
One of their recent visitors wrote on their website,
“What a Lovely place with wonderful people and fantastic staff”
Highly Commended: Colchester Canoe Club
For over 40 years, the club has been teaching the community, how to learn to kayak. Everyone involved, has given their time and love, tirelessly, to kayaking and those that want to learn. Not one person is paid for their time; they give everything, just for the love of the sport. They reach out to the young, and to the not so young. Their Chair, Amanda Gilmore says, “We are just one family, caring both for the people we help,
and for the environment that we paddle in.”
Highly Commended: Sanctus Volunteer Team
Sanctus volunteers are now 50 strong. They are people from all walks of life-some have been homeless, some vulnerable, some physically disabled, some retired, some elderly and some with life limiting and life shortening illnesses. But they all have one thing in common and that is to help those who are vulnerable, homeless, mentally and physically unwell, and often on the periphery of society. Sanctus volunteers collect food donations late at night, prep and cook healthy filling meals, counsel those in need, serve food and provide addiction support to those living life on the edge. They are an eclectic and wonderfully kind-hearted group of people; without them Sanctus could not carry out its great work.
Highly Commended: The Whyman Family
The Whyman family, celebrated the birth of twin boys Raffy and Siddy, in April of 2021. In April of 2022, just one day after their first birthday, the twins were diagnosed, with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 1 (SMA). They were, the first set of identical twins, to be diagnosed with this terrible, mobility condition. Parents Jenna and Steve, were told that the boys were unlikely to live beyond the age of two. However, through their perseverance and determination, the couple managed to have the twins undergo gene therapy, using a new and very expensive drug called Zolgensma. Mum Jenna, had to reside at Great Ormand Street Hospital, for several months, while the twins received therapy, and their progress was monitored. Their sister, Marnie, missed her Mum and brothers very much, whilst she stayed at home with Dad Steve, who took care of her, his work, and their home. All the family, are deserving in their own way. To see the determination, and effort of the twin boys, in moving their heads, is uplifting and inspirational. Young sister Marnie, is not only protective, but readily informs people, about her brothers’ disabilities, and is so inclusive. Parents, Jenna and Steve, juggle family life, appointments, making memories and working, to provide the best opportunities for their young family. They have continual costs to incur for both boys, double the cost of everything, such as private physios. Even mobility equipment, must be self-funded, as the NHS do not contribute, until a child is over the age of three. Jenna, started a GoFundMe page, and their followers responded generously. As the family says on its funding page “We have an extremely long road ahead of us, and with this drug being so new, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the future, but we remain positive and as a family, will stay strong together”.