The Family Experience
A story by Bright Sparks
We provided a weekend break for carers in Moness, 2 Spa weekends for carers a weekend break to Alton Towers for the carers and their family and a theatre trip in Edinburgh for parent/carers.
Bright Sparks Play Groups is a charitable organization which provides various groups and social activities for children with complex additional needs and their families in Midlothian. We support children from birth to 25 years.
We currently provide pre-school play groups, out of school, holiday and lunch and play clubs. We offer a safe stimulating environment so children can feel comfortable and inspired.
What The Family Experience did
No staff were employed for the project it was organized and coordinated by volunteers. The project was a pilot for our organization and the groups and families that were chosen were from our various clubs that we run. The children that were chosen were age appropriate for the break.
4 breaks were offered- a weekend in Moness (adult carers), 2 Spa weekends (adult carers), 1 weekend break to Alton Towers (family break) and a Theatre trip in Edinburgh for 10 parent/carers.
Moness, the carers walked and explored the local area, looked around the local shops, had meals together in the restaurant that was located within the complex. They spent time together socializing in the apartments they were sharing as a group. All the carers for this break also received a spa treatment as part of their weekend away.
Airth Castle Spa weekend, this was a hotel break were carers paired up to share rooms. On each separate break both groups used the spa facilities, ate their evening meal together both nights and the first group choose to go together to the local cinema during the day. During the day both groups if not using the spa and swimming pool sat in the hotel lounge and relaxed and socialized with the other carers in their group.
Alton Towers, this was a family break. All the families accessed the theme park and water park during their 3 day stay. Each family had a 1 day water park pass and a 2 day park pass to which they were free to decide themselves on what days and times they wanted to use these passes. On the Saturday night a group of adults took some of the children back into the park for “Fright Night.” All the families stayed in the hotel within the complex and the first evening ate their evening meal together. Each morning the families also met in the restaurant for breakfast, many families eating together with other families.
I totally loved the trip. Being around other mums in the same situation really helped and was good fun probably to be myself and not referred to as just mum. I enjoyed the relaxation and chat with the other parents. To sum up the experience i would say that it let me see how much i do appreciate my life and what i have with my little boy but also that its ok to take time out occasionally and be me as well and most importantly that you are never alone as there are always people in similar situations.
Thank you Bright Sparks
Having two children with special needs and one regular child can feel like the scariest job in the world there are days when I could hide in the bathroom for five minutes longer than in supposed to be in there, so when Bright Sparks offered me the chance to go away for two days to Moness Spa and relax all paid for with a massage thrown in, I was torn between this is what i need and this would be cruel if they are joking! Of course they weren't and after introducing us to each other who was all going and arranging the transport there and back we were off!!
We arrived at a stunning lodge the fridge was filled for us the massage and lunch the next day all booked I was in heaven!! A few hours passed in amidst of chatting getting to know each other and swapping stories, we also headed out for dinner as a group which was amazing having someone else cook for you, no fingers in your food and no having to rush it down, then the wine was opened! After a glass or two we all started to relax some more and that's when we really started bonding, each and every one of us faces daily struggles within ourselves and with our children we all had fears worries things we were unsure off but none of our regular friends understand. This group of parents did!
We each spilled out everything we had been too afraid to say to anyone else we each comforted each other listened to the problems offered a solution and that night I know every single one of us slept so much better with the weight being lifted! The next day feeling more recharged than we had since before we had kids we all cooked breakfast together then headed to the pool, we then spent the entire day chilling out, laughing, joking reading magazines chatting more having lunch and best of all having a massage and facial.
That evening we cooked dinner as a group and all sat at the dinner table toasting to what an amazing break this was! I cannot thank Bright Sparks enough for allowing me to go on this fantastic trip away I needed it a lot more than I thought I did and on my return I was a lot happier at having a good sleep having a rest having shared all my problems and best of all having met a great new bunch of people I now call friends!
10/10 rating for me thanks again bright sparks xxx Difference made I was more relaxed and recharged once home and felt I had a new group of friends who would really understand my problems xx
I would never had contemplated a trip like this on my own with 2 children but before you know it you have got in the car and driven 250 miles! On arrival Bright Sparks had sorted everything- the check in, the car park, the room, meals and park passes. At the park the next day there was a query over the fast track passes. Bright Sparks sorted it out straight away for me.
Going with a group allowed me to divide my time between children, the friendliness of everyone enabled my children to gain confidence and develop friendships. As a parent I never felt alone on the trip. I was able to enjoy myself and I came back feeling proud of myself, refreshed and closer to my children.
That's us on the road home now. Massive, massive thanks for inviting us this weekend!! It's been amazing. We have all had a ball. Louise and Kirstie I hope you realise how much we all appreciate the hard work you do. Thank you so much. I hope you and your families have enjoyed this weekend as much as my lot have. Everyone enjoy your last day at the park and hope you all have a safe journey home
What Bright Sparks has learnedThe funding has brought families together. Many had not met before, although the children see each other weekly at the various groups that are run at the centre. The main unexpected challenge was that the first break offered to Moness did not fill up as quick has anticipated. On evaluating this it was felt it was because a break had not been offered to carers before and it was a pilot and the carers felt nervous. After the break took place our second break was oversubscribed.
The service has been made more personalised because specific families and individuals were invited to the breaks. We have attracted new carers just by inviting them along on the breaks they have now met new carers. In one particular case we have a Mum who now attends our Parent/Carer support group that we hold each month because on the Alton Towers break she met several Mums and feels comfortable attending the meetings now with other carers she now knows.