Today I was honoured to attend the #SpringhillHospice ‘#Rochdale Woman of the Year 2019’ event at the Town Hall as a shortlisted nominee; this in itself was an honour. I spent the day amongst some of the powerful, influential and inspirational women of our borough, the incredible event raised funds for our local adult hospice which provides an outstanding service to our community.
I was named as Rochdale’s Woman of the Year 2019 (it feels so bizarre to write that), which is such a privilege and I am thankful to the person/persons who nominated me. Accepting this award is extremely bitter-sweet because I would not be in this position had we not have experienced life with a disabled child with complex needs. #JollyJosh was not created because Joshua passed away, it was founded with the hope that he would attend and that we could connect with other families in similar situations.
Those that know me know that I struggle at the thought of public speaking, as a teacher I even dread school assemblies and performances etc. However, in my role as founder of Jolly Josh I am learning to accept that I need to gain a public platform via speeches etc. to promote the charity. I had not prepared a speech for today and although I spoke from the heart about Jolly Josh I didn’t include some of the factors which really matter, so here goes…
Firstly, I have not achieved this success alone; many people have had a huge role within the accomplishments of Jolly Josh, namely our trustees. Our trustees give up their own time to do lots of background work, such as gaining us charitable status, listening to my ‘grand plans’ and helping to develop the group. Our trustees are all professionals who take on this role alongside their own family and working lives to help to support me and to make a difference in our community. In addition, our volunteers (whether they are those welcoming families at the sessions or those volunteering to fundraise, etc.), session manager, fundraisers and supporters are all fundamental. Support could be as simple as following and sharing our news on social media which raises awareness of Jolly Josh.
Each week we welcome various professionals (in 2018 23 different professionals attended our sessions) enabling our families to further ‘connect’ and gain the ‘support’ to ‘thrive’, we are grateful of the links that we have developed with such professionals to benefit our families. Thank you also to Melody Fierro, headteacher of #SpringsideSchool, who believed in me and the concept of Jolly Josh, providing a venue for us during our first year of opening and to those who have helped in continuing that support at Hamer School. Of course, Jolly Josh would not achieve anything without our families, they take the first steps in breaking isolation to bravely visit and attend our sessions. Our sessions can often be emotional and we pride ourselves on the fact that families feel comfortable enough to ‘bare their souls’ to strangers who then become peers and for many close friends. Thank you to my family and friends who have supported me and understood the need for Jolly Josh, especially to my husband James and our parents and Sophie who is my strength and reason to smile. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has played a part, large or small, in the success of Jolly Josh so far.
In 2018, our first year of opening, we welcomed 63 families through our doors and 23 different professionals, enabling us to aid families to #ConnectSupportThrive. We wish to continue to #InspireInclusion and we hope that you’ll continue on this journey with us.
At the heart of Jolly Josh there’s a very special, brave boy. He was thriving and meeting all milestones from birth but began to show signs of illness and regression aged 4 months old and had confirmed 'extensive brain damage' at 6 months old. He battled a degenerative condition with all his might whilst experiencing a life full of love and hope. He was adored by us all and he taught us so very much! I am proud to call him my son, Joshua James.
(Thank you for all of your kind messages of ‘congratulations,’ my social media has been overwhelmed with your lovely comments, I may be unable to reply/thank everyone individually but I am exceptionally grateful.)
Thank you Carole x