AWARD’S A LIT­TLE SPE­CIAL: Club founder hon­oured

Founder of club for dis­abled kids named Lon­don Young Per­son of the year

Uxbridge Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - by Kather­ine Clemen­tine kather­ine.clemen­tine@trin­i­tymir­ror.com

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.

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

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