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Pegasus Playscheme begins 30th annual summer school today thanks to generous donations

By Eleanor Perkins

When the entire committee of a summer playscheme for children with disabilities took the tough decision to resign, Sue Clark knew she had to step up to the plate.

The mother-of-three, of Collingwood Road, St Margaret’s, has been fundraising for Pegasus Playscheme – the Mercury’s charity of the year 2016 – for 13 years.

She has been the chairman for 12 of them.

Sue Clark and her son Jamie
Sue Clark and her son Jamie

The role, she says, is like a full-time job. It involves planning, fundraising and hiring to ensure a group of youngsters, aged eight to 25, with a variety of severe and complex disabilities such as autism and Down’s syndrome, can have a summer to remember.

This year’s playscheme starts today.

It will see 40 children, accompanied by 40 teenage volunteers, 12 staff members and four bus drivers, enjoy days out every weekday for three weeks.

Day 1 will see them come together with a Mad Hatter’s tea party at Astor College in Dover.

Other planned activities include horse riding in Walmer, swimming in Folkestone, visiting Brockhill Country Park and The Vineyard Garden Centre in Barham and a day out with Dover Sea Safari.

Sue, 60, said: “My main reason for becoming involved with Pegasus was because of my son Jamie, who is now 25. He has been going to Pegasus since he was five.

“It has been a lifeline for our family. I can’t imagine it not in our lives, although the time will eventually come to say goodbye.”

The children canoeing at Hythe. They take part in a different activity each day for three weeks.
The children canoeing at Hythe. They take part in a different activity each day for three weeks.

Sue’s involvement began when she attended Pegasus’s annual meeting some 13 years ago. That year all of the committee members resigned because they could not commit the time needed.

“I then found myself as fundraiser, and, a year later, chairman,” she said.

“But I am only a small piece in the Pegasus jigsaw. I have an equally committed committee behind the scenes ensuring that Pegasus stays fresh, lively, safe and fun.”

Sue said she has changed the scheme to make it more exciting for the youngsters but, with that, the cost of running it has increased.

She continued: “I did think it would be this year that we’d say goodbye, but being our 30th year and pearl anniversary I was spurred on to find the £70,000 that we need each and every year. With this challenge I discovered once again the generosity of local people.”

And Sue knows it will all be worth it, when everyone is together and the first activity is underway.

She said: “To know we’ve been able to pull it together again as a committee is something we’re proud of.

“The biggest prize is the smiles of all of the children on Day 1, and the tears on Day 15 when it is over for another year.”

Chairman of Pegasus Playscheme Sue Clark with her son's statue on Dover seafront
Chairman of Pegasus Playscheme Sue Clark with her son's statue on Dover seafront

And it is not just the children who benefit. The helpers walk away with something, too.

Sue said: “Since becoming chairman, I have always believed that, although our main aim is to provide a summer of fun for our young children with disabilities, the benefits received by the teenage volunteers is immense. Pegasus shapes their future.

“Some of our volunteers go on to university to study childcare and then come back years later as staff.”

Through Pegasus, Sue has also helped form a youth forum group for 18 to 30-year-olds.

She said: “This is another proud achievement. Knowing first hand as a parent the difficulties facing young adults with additional needs, the isolation is dreadful, especially in the evenings.”

Sue has thanked everybody who has helped Pegasus reach this milestone, including those who have completed marathon runs and bike rides, held cake sales and attended music evenings.

She said: “Without the support year upon year from our community, Pegasus would have folded years ago. The support we receive is amazing.

“I couldn’t do it without my family, my children and especially my husband, Tom. He has helped raise thousands over the years.”

She has given a special mention to the Port of Dover for its £10,000 donation this year.

To donate to Pegasus Playscheme, click here.

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