AWARD’S A LITTLE SPECIAL: Club founder honoured
Founder of club for disabled kids named London Young Person of the year
AN UXBRIDGE teenager who founded a club for disabled children, has been named London’s Young Person of the Year.
The deserving 19-yearold, Stephanie Bayford, opened ‘Little Specials’ in February 2014, using her own money.
It gives children with learning difficulties, disabilities and lifelimiting illness the chance to develop social and communication skills, as well as providing support for parents and siblings.
Stephanie said: “My mother did a lot of respite work as I was growing up and at weekends I was surrounded by children with special needs.
“With my mum working in a special needs school, I felt like I wanted to follow in the same footsteps and you understand the struggle of the parents and how much support they really need.”
Stephanie was shortlisted out of hundreds of entries from across London and judged by a 50-strong panel that included London MPs, borough mayors and the Greater London High Sheriff who represents the Queen.
She won £200 for Little Specials and £100 for herself, sharing the top prize with a young woman from Barnet who has set up an organisation to get young people out of gangs.
The humble teen enjoyed the awards ceremony with her family at Queen Mary’s University.
Speaking about winning London’s Young Person of the Year (YOPEY) award, she said: “I was overwhelmed. It was quite surprising because there was a lot of very inspirational and outstanding people there and to be chosen was an emotional and unexpected thing.”
Stephanie began volunteering while still at school, helping at a residential school for visually impaired children.
Then she volunteered at Moorcroft Special Needs School in Uxbridge. After leaving school Stephanie went back as an apprentice and is now a learning support assistant there.
She saved £2,000 to launch Little Specials and more of her money has gone on the club since.
Stephanie currently works during the week to pay for the Saturday sessions and would love to expand so that the wider community can access support too.
One little girl with Down’s syndrome had an issue with eating and did not like touching food or even the smell of it.
So Stephanie introduced ‘messy play’ and encouraged her to play with her food. After 10 weeks she is now eating bananas.
Stephanie said: “It is a little thing and has taken a long time but we got there, and when she ate that banana her mum and me were crying.”
If you would like to get involved with the group or donate, sessions run at Oak Farm Library, Sutton Court Road, Hillingdon, UB10 9PB from 2pm to 3.30pm. Email Stephanie on littlespecials@outlook. com or call 07985 805157.
n CEREMONY: Left, Stephanie receives a certificate from MP Justine Greening. Above, High Sheriff of Essex, Vincent Thompson (centre) with winners, finalists and sponsors. Below, Stephanie with her cheques