A WREXHAM schoolboy with severe speech and learning disabilities was a VIP guest at the official opening of a Santa’s grotto which is raising money for the specialist charity centre which helps him and his family.
Callum Roberts, 10, who is a pupil at Alexandra School, Wrexham, was there with his mum, Zara Chetwynd, to be one of the first to meet the man himself at Eagles Meadow shopping centre where all the free Christmas activities on offer will be raising money for Dynamic.
Dynamic, a Wrexham-based centre for children and young people with disabilities, supports more than 100 young people by holding six weekly after school groups, a Saturday group, activities’ during school holidays and a major summer programme to support families during the long school break.
Callum’s mum Zara explained how much the charity means to her and her son who has severe learning and speech difficulties and communicates using Makaton sign language.
She said: “Dynamic means everything to us. They are always there to help. Callum goes to Dynamic once a fortnight and loves it. It’s really helped him and I’ve seen a big improvement since they began supporting him.
“He enjoys the activities they do with him as its helps with his vocalisation. Dynamic have really helped by working with him on his speech. He’s a happy boy and coming here today and meeting Santa is something he has really enjoyed.”
Zara, who is part of the Dynamic fundraising team, added: “I think the grotto is amazing and the fact it’s supporting Dynamic is fantastic.
“The fundraising group I am part of helps by preparing for and helping out at fundraising events. Things like collecting raffle prizes and selling tickets, anything we can do to help really.”
The free Santa’s Grotto with face-painting will be open between Saturday 14 and Monday 23December, from 10am until 4pm each day, where voluntary donations to Dynamic will be welcomed. From 10 to 11 am on each day, there will be a quiet grotto for any children and families this might help to ensure their visit with Santa is even more enjoyable.
The shopping centre will also host a charity gift wrapping service in aid of Dynamic, which will be part-staffed by volunteers from the charity, and welcome some special Christmas characters throughout the festive period.
Eagles Meadow Marketing Manager Oana Mocanasu said the team wanted to give something back to the community and so invited Santa Claus and created him a magical grotto with the aim of raising as much money as possible for the charity.
She said: “Children can visit the grotto and meet Santa free of charge but any donations will go to support Dynamic which does amazing work supporting so many children and young people in the Wrexham area who all have physical and learning disabilities.
“As a shopping centre we are very much part of the community and want to support charities such as Dynamic whenever we can.
“Every child visiting Santa can choose a small gift from his gift sack and we have face painting and other activities available too.
She added: “It was lovely to see so many children here enjoying meeting Santa. It’s difficult for children who are on the autism spectrum, for example, to queue or be in big crowds so we invited Dynamic to bring the children early as guests of honour for the grand opening.
“It meant they could enjoy the occasion without becoming too stressed. It was just lovely to see so many happy children and, taking into account the number of children who have already paid Santa a visit, the grotto is going to be a massive hit.”
Dynamic’s deputy manager Amy Lynch says the Santa Grotto at Eagles Meadow and the help and support the charity receives from the shopping centre is amazing.
She said: “We received support from Eagles Meadow earlier this year when they held a ‘Passport to Summer’ event which was linked to the release of The Lion King.
“It helped raise awareness of Dynamic locally here in Wrexham. It’s the same with the Santa Grotto I can’t put a price on the value of raising awareness and letting people know what we do and the children and young people we support.
“As a charity Dynamic is part-funded by Wrexham County Borough Council. We receive 52 per cent of our funding that way but we still need to raise around £100,000 a year if we are to support the children and young people we help and care for.”
She added: “As a charity we run a unique service for severely disabled young people with complex needs and we give them the same opportunities as ‘mainstream’ children have.
“Children such as Callum, who is such a lovely and happy boy, attend fortnightly sessions at Dynamic where we use Makaton.
“While using Makaton children are encouraged to vocalise too. It’s a system normally used with special needs children to encourage language use.
“Callum’s speech is coming on even if there is still a long way to go. He was so excited about seeing Santa.
“It was absolutely wonderful being able to bring Dynamic children and young people to Eagles Meadow as guests of honour for the opening of Santa’s Grotto.
“Severely or even mildly autistic children don’t deal well with crowds and noise and they struggle with queuing especially if it’s a large crowd. So to come down early and to get to see Santa was a massive help. It’s invaluable to be able to give them these simple and exciting opportunities.”
Amy also praised Dynamic parents like Callum’s mum, Zara, who is part of the Dynamic fundraising group made up of parents of children the charity supports and helps.
She said: “Zara, as part of a fundraising parent’s group, gives a huge amount of time to Dynamic. The group helps by supporting fundraising activities and preparing for events. They make posters, prepare craft items and sell and collect raffle prizes.
“As a group they are very active and give a huge amount in terms of time and support. We also have 20 or so volunteers who help out at our youth centre and around 25 volunteers who give up their time to work at our Lord Street charity shop.”
For more information on the free festive fun helping to raise money for Dynamic at Eagles Meadow, go to http://www.eagles-meadow.co.uk/whats-on/events.html
For more information about Dynamic, go to www.dynamicwrexham.org.uk or Facebook @DynamicWrexhamCenter