Charity ambassador launches unique support group for disabled young people
Antonia Payne-Cheney, from Eckington, in Worcestershire, has set up a support group for young people, aged between 14-25, who are challenged by chronic illness and disability.
The 18-year-old has thrown open the doors to her specially adapted house to invite those with mobility and medical needs to her twice monthly T@Tonias sessions.
Antonia, who until recently had spent three-and-a-half years, isolated, in hospital, was inspired to help others after Caudwell Children, helped Antonia to escape what she describes as her ‘hospital nightmare’.
As the former Tewksbury High School pupil explained: “Six months ago, I was facing continued isolation in hospital as a result of my condition; Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), with gastrointestinal failure, and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
“I was told that the only way that I could leave my hospital bedroom was to buy a specialist state-of-the-art powerchair. Unfortunately, the chair that I needed, which cost a staggering £25,000, wasn’t available through statutory funding.
“I’d resigned myself to a life in hospital but thankfully that’s when my mum heard about Caudwell Children. They provided the fundraising support needed for me to secure the chair and it’s changed my life. The help they have given me made me determined to do all that I could to help other young people like me.”
That’s when Antonia, who’s now an ambassador for the charity, came up with the idea of T@Tonias. After a number of trial sessions, attended by between 5-8 members, she’s now formerly launched the support group and is determined to see it become an established resource for disabled children and young people across the UK.
“It’s a fantastic way for disabled children and young people to enjoy the company of others who have had similar experiences. We organise activities like T-shirt design, jewellery making, craft, gaming, graphic design and much, much more.
“We also sell some of the things that we create, like cards, to raise funds for a range of charities that we support, like Caudwell Children.
“We also secure tickets for a variety of exciting attractions enabling those who attend the sessions to enjoy even more social and community integration.”
However, Antonia says the real aim of T@Tonias is for disabled and ill young people, who are experiencing a hard time, to make new friends. She said: “It’s a chance for those who have an understanding of what each other are going through, to meet in a comfortable and pressure free environment. Not only that, but the venue has been designed to meet their needs.”
The inaugural T@Tonias took place on Saturday 18th June, 2016, and was attended by young people from across the UK, including Stratford-upon-Avon, Bedford and Leeds.
You can find out the dates for subsequent T@Tonias by following Antonia’s Facebook page here.