A disabled children’s resource centre in Herne Bay was transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with ice rink and Santa’s Grotto.
Children with disabilities used specially-adapted wheelchairs to skate on the ice, and there were fun push-along penguin ‘skate aids’ available for disabled children without wheelchairs to help them skate around the rink at Windchimes, in Reynolds Close
As well as the ice rink and Santa’s grotto, there was a magic show, a bubble fairy, a silent disco, face-painting, Christmas-themed arts and crafts, gingerbread decorating and North Pole letter-writing to keep children entertained and enjoy the excitement of the run-up to Christmas.
The event was organised by the charity SNAAP, which provides an extensive range of services to children and young people up to 25 years old with disabilities. Tickets to the event were booked in advance and around 100 children attended each of the two sessions.
Carrie Wood, who founded the charity, said: “It’s such a pleasure to be able to put on this magical winter wonderland for our disabled children and young people.
“I have a son who is disabled, and he is absolutely mesmerised by the magic of Christmas storytelling, but it can be difficult going to events that don’t specifically cater for disabled children and young people. His love of Christmas inspired me to create this winter wonderland for disabled children, giving them the chance to enjoy all the magic of Christmas in accessible, safe and secure surroundings.
“The pandemic will have been particularly tough for disabled children and events like this can really boost their mental health, giving them the chance to spend quality time with their friends and family and enjoy the thrill of skating on ice.
“We have been running Covid-safe activities during the pandemic and keeping up-to-date with the latest government guidelines around Covid safety. The event took place outside, with marquees that have their sides up to allow for constant airflow, plenty of hand-sanitisers around the venue and timings for Santa visits to eliminate the need for queuing.
“All staff and volunteers had to show proof of a negative lateral flow test on the day, and we encouraged parents to take a test before attending.”
The event has received £4,666 funding from Kent County Council’s Locality Grants scheme, provided by the Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People programme.
Carrie added: “The Reconnect funding has added huge value to our event, enabling us to provide the ice rink with special wheelchair facilities, the magician, face painter as well as other Christmas-themed activities that our funding wouldn’t have been able to cover. We hope that the children and young people left the event having had a wonderful festive experience and special memories of their time with us.”
Sue Chandler, KCC’s Cabinet Member for Integrated Children’s Services, said: “It’s fantastic that Reconnect funding gave disabled children and young people the chance to experience ice-skating and all the other Christmas activities that Carrie and her colleagues in SNAAP have put on.
“It is local charities and organisations like SNAAP who are coming together to put on amazing activities and making a real difference to Kent’s children and young people.
“I hope it was a lovely Christmas event for children and young people to remember for many years to come, and hopefully events like these inspire other people to volunteer their time to make a positive difference to children’s lives.”
SNAAP (which stands for Special Needs Advisory and Activities Project) was started in 2003 by a group of parents who wanted to make a difference to the lives of disabled children and young people, and their families, and realised that they were not alone in feeling isolated and frustrated. With the help of Contact a Family, who carried out a consultation that highlighted a lack of support and information and very few leisure opportunities for disabled children, SNAAP was born.
The Reconnect: Kent Children and Young People Programme was created in April 2021 to try to reconnect children and young people with things they have missed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Young people have told us that they want to return to doing fun activities with friends and family, enjoy new experiences such as festivals and camping, start their hobbies again and take part in clubs, and enjoy the outdoors by taking part in activities such as climbing and kayaking.
Reconnect is a universal programme, focussing on providing positive experiences and opportunities for Kent’s children and young people, in recognition of the sacrifices they have made throughout the pandemic. The programme runs from April 2021 to the end of August 2022.
More information about Reconnect can be found on our website.