MUMS FUNDRAISING FOR A SPECIAL PLAYGROUP
TWO Hillingdon mums, both who have a child with cerebral palsy, are fundraising to start a playgroup for disabled children.
Leanne Wilson-Stefanovic, 29, who gave birth to miracle baby and now thriving two-year-old Isabella at just 25 weeks, wants to start the group with Emma Ough, 36, mother of Radden, after they bonded in hospital over their children’s similar health complications.
They have so far fundraised £2,100 for Little Warriors Fighting Big Battles, but hope to raise even more in order to afford specialist equipment to accommodate children with a number of different needs.
Leanne said: “Emma wanted to do this because there is not enough out there for disabled pre-school children and she asked me to join her. We don’t want our children to have to miss out and stay at home, especially as socialising is such an important skill in life.
“We’re really just two normal mums thrown into a journey of disability who want to do something for our children and other families’ children.
“Me and Emma had met in hospital in early pregnancy because we were both having complications, but we didn’t think we would ever see each other again.
“Then, several months later, we met again in the neonatal unit because Radden had just been born and was in the intensive care unit and Isabella was going for brain surgery because she had hydrocephalus (a condition where there is an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid within the brain, causing increased pressure inside the skull.)
“I couldn’t believe I saw her and then when she said Radden had the same problems I sunk to the floor, it was almost like destiny had put us together. After that we all became very close.”
Both Isabella and Radden suffer from cerebral palsy, along with other severe disabilities, with symptoms including poor coordination, stiffness, weak muscles and tremors.
Leanne added: “Because our children are at slightly different stages, I could be a support to Emma and she has been a huge support to me. We pick one another up. When she’s having a hard time she will message me and I do the same.
“That’s actually another reason why we feel so strongly about doing this, so that families who have nobody like that can meet other parents who understand. It can be hard sometimes because your other friends just can’t understand.
“Leanne’s now coming to the age where she wants to play, but she’s very behind the other children and normal groups are not always beneficial to her. Childrens’ centres may say ‘just come’ because they don’t discriminate, but parents will still stare and ask questions.
“It’s nice to have somewhere to go that’s just children with similar capabilities and parents who understand. I’d still take her to other playgroups as well, but if we could open just once or twice a week it would be great.
“We’ve already got a venue for free for a few months, but we still need to raise funds because we want to buy specialist toys for the children like crash mats and special equipment.
“Once we’ve raised the money we will talk to interested parents about what they want. We don’t want to just buy specialist toys that will meet our kids’ needs so we will need ideas from them.
“After that we’re hoping to open in January, but we’re not going to put too much pressure on ourselves as we’re both caring for severely disabled children after all.”w
Leanne Wilson-Stefanovic (left) and Emma Ough with their children and the Hillingdon mayor at a recent fundraiser