A Yorkshire mum has thanked, Family Breaks programme, a leading youth charity for helping make one of her son’s dreams come true as his sight deteriorates.
Fred Howe, aged 8 from Haxby, suffers from a progressive eye condition which may eventually cost him his sight. Before that day, Fred’s mum Karen is helping him fulfil his bucket list of experiences which he has named Fantastic Mr Fred’s Flight For Sights, in honour of his favourite book Fantastic Mr Fox.
Thanks to YHA (England and Wales), the youngster and his family, which includes mum Karen, sister Eva (10) and dad Dave, got to experience the London Marathon.
YHA’s Communities Team arranged for the family to have grandstand seats in St James Park, the finish line of the race.
“It’s really important to us as a family that we help Fred understand what you can achieve if you persevere and train. He has lots of important things to learn alongside his curriculum. He is learning braille, touch typing and mobility skills. He embraces them but, at times, it’s tough. Seeing so many runners overcoming their own difficulties and celebrating their achievement as they crossed the finish line, was just a wonderful experience for him. He was just amazed that they had run 26 miles. We are all immensely grateful to YHA for the opportunity.”
The visit to London had double significance for Fred. As part of his condition he has to visit Great Ormand Street Hospital regularly and the family are keen to create a different association with the nation’s capital, other than hospital visits.
Fred suffers from Familial Exudative Vitreoretinopathy (FEVR), a condition which affects the retina, the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye, by preventing blood vessels from forming at the edges of the retina. Fred only has light perception left in one eye and can only see up to two metres with his ‘good eye’.
Ahead of further deterioration of Fred’s sight, his Fantastic Mr Fred’s Flight For Sights bucket list includes climbing to the top of the Eiffel Tower, seeing a snowy mountain, feeling warm sand on his feet and swimming in really warm sea with a coral reef like one of his favourite CBeebies programmes, The Octonauts.
Already he has been on the London Eye, sailed on the River Thames and climbed up Big Ben.
Now YHA is set to make another of book-mad Fred’s dreams come true - to go on an adventure like the Famous Five and find treasure and fossils. Later this year, Fred and his family will be having a holiday at a youth hostel on the coast of North Yorkshire.
The two-day break is being provided by YHA’s Family Breaks programme. The programme was launched earlier this year to support children and their families to access positive life changing experiences, creating memories that last a lifetime.
Fred and his family will stay at YHA Boggle Hole, which is nestled on the beach in an old smugglers’ cove where he will go fossil hunting during his stay.
“It is really refreshing to find a charity focussed on giving young people and their families experiences, rather than just on their disability. The whole family is looking forward to the stay at YHA Boggle Hole – it offers something for both Fred and his sister to enjoy together and that is really important to us.”
Delighted to help Fred and his family, James Blake Chief Executive of YHA (England and Wales) commented:
“What YHA has been able to do for Fred embodies our Breaks programme and the key reason why we relaunched it earlier this year. We want to provide memorable experiences to those young people who are facing challenges in their lives; what it is like to paddle in the sea for the first time, to see the city skyline at night and to feel the sand between your toes. At YHA we believe that every child should have these opportunities.
“Giving a young person the opportunity to have a break away from their challenging lives can have a long-lasting positive effect. Research shows it can increase resilience and ability to cope with future challenges, increase health and wellbeing, improve behaviour and school attendance and build life skills and improve future prospects.”
Earlier this year YHA launch four Breaks Programmes - Challenging Lives, Challenging Places, Educational Support and Family Breaks, all designed to provide either free or financially supported stays in a youth hostel in England and Wales.
The programmes are all part of the 87-year-old youth hostelling charity’s work to demonstrate its commitment to improving physical and mental health and wellbeing and developing crucial life skills for young people.