Disability charity in bid for £50,000 grant

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A CHARITY which provides help for families of children with learning disabilities has reached the final stages of a competition to win £50,000.

Baby Buddy was founded 18 months ago by mother and daughter Lorraine and Chelsea Harman, after Lorraine’s youngest son Diego was born with Down’s Syndrome.

The mother-of-eight, of The Esplanade, Worthing, is married to Walter, who owns the Brio restaurants in Worthing and Shoreham.

She said: “It was a normal pregnancy and it went full term and the birth went well but when they passed him to me I straight away said, ‘He has got Down’s Syndrome’. You could see that the staff were not really convinced so I insisted on having the blood test done.

“It was emotionally horrendous and Diego was black and blue from all the tests they had done. Our lives have changed massively as a result.

“It took me three months to get my head around it and I did not go out during that time. I think I was grieving.”

Mrs Harman then decided to attend Buddys Café in South Farm Road, Worthing, an information hub set up by Mencap Worthing.

“I wanted to see where our future would lie,” she said. “A short time later we asked if we could provide a service for babies to 14-year-olds because that was what was missing from Buddys. Baby Buddy was born from there.”

Chelsea, 25, who has a four-year-old son, says she got involved with the charity because she could see how much her mother was suffering.

She said: “We felt so alone and did not know where to turn to get the right support.

“Now we run drop in sessions and arrange events through the year such as Easter egg hunts to bring people together. It is a support network.

“People are ignorant until this sort of thing happens to them.”

In March, she applied for the National Lottery grant, after seeing it advertised on television.

She said: “I had not told anyone so when the letter came in June to say we had been short-listed to 12 charities, I had forgotten all about it.

“Now we are up against one other charity, the Exeter Street Hall, which is based in Brighton.

“If we got the grant we would buy a static caravan complete with wheelchair access, a sensory room and wet room. There will also be activities available such as bikes and scooters for the siblings.”

Lorraine said: “It would be absolutely amazing if we were able to do this as it would offer a respite for lots of families and somewhere that they can all go together. Selsey is close to Chichester Hospital which puts a lot of parents’ minds at rest.”

People can vote on November 25. For information go to www.peoplesmillions.org.uk