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Surf's up for St Oswald's Hospice!

It was an epic day at the beach on Thursday 18th August.  Some of the children and young adults who we care for at St Oswald’s Hospice, hit the water together with South Shields Surf CIC for one last surfing session of the summer.

“Hannah absolutely loves it! She now wants a wetsuit and a board of her own!” said Katy Jones, whose daughter, Hannah, age 10, was one of the children surfing this summer and has been totally inspired. “I never dreamt that it would be possible,” added Katy.

But thankfully, our Physiotherapist, Amanda McCleery, and the rest of the team did dare to dream it would be possible.  In early summer, 2021, Amanda headed down to South Shields Surf CIC to meet with Nick Jones and a plan was hatched.  Using adaptive surf boards, surfing sessions began last summer and they were a big hit with everyone involved.

However, this summer, riding on a wave of enthusiasm from the children, the team wanted to up their game – and found the perfect partners to help them create the chair board.  Beach Access North East provided the adaptive board.  Then with the expertise of Peacocks Medical Group, a chair was sourced – they then worked with East Coast Fibreglass Supplies to fit it to the board.

Heather Peacock from Peacocks Medical Group explained: “It was a true collaborative project and we had to get quite technical – it took a lot of problem solving from our innovation team, along with Steve from Beach Access and the team at East Coast Fiberglass. We had to get it right and make sure it worked in the water.”

Heather added:

“My husband and I had seen something similar in South Wales whilst on holiday a few years ago and I said we’ve got to bring something like that to the North East, as I knew we had the capabilities. So, when Nick told me last summer he was running surf sessions for St Oswald’s Hospice, it was perfect and I knew we had to make it happen.   I’m a surfer and total sea addict so I’m passionate about access for all.  It’s brought so much joy to see the idea become a reality.”

It’s the only board of its kind in the North East and Nick Jones, from South Shields Surf CIC, is proud to have it in his fleet of adaptive surf boards:

“We were so pleased when St Oswald’s Hospice approached us as co-incidentally we were looking into adaptive surfing at the time. They came down and jumped in with us and it’s taken off from there!  And now we have the chair board, we’re over the moon with how it’s going.  Each week has got better and better as we get used to using the equipment and the kids love it.  The result of this is that it’s changed what’s available for the people of the North East. ”

Amanda and the team have been thrilled with the impact the chair board has made to surf sessions in 2022.  It’s made a huge difference to the accessibility and success of surfing sessions for the children and young adults who have a range of life-limiting illnesses.

Joss Thompson, our Matron of the Children and Young Adults Service explained, “St Oswald’s Hospice is all about providing quality time for everyone and we do so much more for those we care for than people think we do.”

The chair board really embraces that ethos and Joss added:

“We’re so thrilled for the children and families and can’t thank Amanda and the team enough for making this happen.  It’s been a real team effort and game changer.  Last year, Amanda was the chair and could only hold smaller children but the chair board has opened up the opportunity to surf for some of our older children and young adults too.  It’s given them such a sense of achievement and we’ve seen some real progress over the sessions this summer.”

Nick Cornwall, age 22, is one of the young adults who has been able to leave his wheelchair on the shore and enjoy surfing for the first time this year.

Steve Turnbull, from Beach Access North East said:

“The first time Nick came last year, we didn’t even have the right equipment to get him on the sand.  So when I came and saw him on the chair board it was really exciting.”

Nick’s not the only one who loves catching a wave.  Keira Moore, age 12, took to the chair board for the first time and she was a natural.

Mam, Terri, explained:

“Keira’s not been able to surf because she’s got bad circulation but the staff have done everything possible to make sure she could try. She even had two wet suits on to keep her warm.

“What made it even more special was that Keira had her big brother, Louis, age 14, surfing alongside her too.  Keira was all smiles as she was looking over from the chair board to see Louis standing up on his surf board.  It was the first time they’ve been able to do an activity like this at the same time. It was brilliant seeing them together. They loved it and they’re not really ever going to get another experience like it,” said Terri.

Sophia Welsh, has monthly short breaks with us at St Oswald’s Hospice and looks forward to her surfing sessions. Mum, Megan Killington, has had the opportunity to join her daughter in the sea.

“Surfing honestly does have to be my favourite memory-making experience with Sophia and it’s made possible by the team at St Oswald’s Hospice – so thank you to everyone involved. I’m smiling from ear to ear,” said Megan.

Surfing may have come to an end for 2022 but we’ll be back as soon as surf’s up next summer for sure!

St Oswald’s Hospice is a charity and needs to raise over £7.5 million each year through voluntary giving and legacies to continue to provide much-needed, specialist services, like the Children and Young Adults Service.

To find out more how you can support or donate click here: www.stoswaldsuk.org/get-involved