Firefighter Steve Vincent took the plunge at Castle Vale swimming pool at the weekend (Saturday 25 July) to raise money to help a Birmingham boy get the specialist bed he needs so he can sleep in safety.
Steve, an Area Commander based at West Midlands Fire Service headquarters in Eastside, Birmingham, was helping Tyburn Councillor Lynda Clinton raise awareness of the swimming facilities, which are now run by the Castle Pool Community Partnership. Formerly under the control of Birmingham City Council, the pool was threatened with closure until the community partnership took over.
Challenged by his colleagues to swim a kilometre in full fire kit, Steve has raised more than £150, which will help five-year-old Henry Hogan from Great Barr.
Steve said: “West Midlands Fire Service is all about supporting people to live safe and healthy lives – and helping to raise awareness of the local leisure facilities in the Castle Vale community is a part of that.
“Having been set the swimming challenge, I wanted to use it to support a local good cause. Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children is the largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness in the UK. It has invested in excess of £1million in helping to improve the lives of more than 1,000 disabled children in the West Midlands, some of them in and around the Castle Vale area.
“The charity is currently working with another 60-plus families in the West Midlands Fire Service area – and one of these is little Henry, who has autism. My colleagues and I are delighted to be helping to improve his night-time safety.”
Because he has autism, Henry – the middle of three children – finds life overwhelming. He doesn’t speak, walks on his tip toes and has no awareness of danger, so he uses a wheelchair for safety whenever he goes outside. Sleep is something Henry also finds difficult – despite medication – and he will often be awake for long periods through the night.
Thankfully at home Henry has a SafeSpace, which is essentially a room within a room, which has made a huge difference to family life, allowing his parents to have a restful night’s sleep knowing he can’t come to any harm.
However, without a way to ensure Henry’s safety overnight away from home, it means his parents Helen and David Hogan can’t contemplate going on holiday or even a short break with him and their other children – seven-year-old George and one-year-old Elsie – so they approached Newlife to fund a £2,899 portable version of their son’s safe sleeping environment.
Helen said: “The SafeSpace is his calm place; he goes there when everything is just too much for him. He’s also sleeping better as it is so enclosed, so he’s a lot less lethargic in the day now. If we go away though, it all goes to pot. He can’t settle in a normal bed.”
The family did try to go away to Blackpool for one night, but Helen says it was ‘horrendous’ as they ended up being awake all night with Henry.
She added: “We would love a holiday – anywhere, just something simple so we could do the kind of things as a family that others take for granted – it would be great for our other children as well as Henry.”
To find out how you can help Henry and other children with disabilities and terminal illness who currently need help, go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/westmidlands, call the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of every donation through the Newlife West Midlands Fund will be used to provide specialist equipment for children in the county.
Pictured: WMFS Area Commander Steve Vincent celebrates his successful challenge with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Ray Hassall, and a Castle Vale pool lifeguard.