Blackpool carers building better future with DIY SOS and BBC Children in Need
Ever watched BBC Children in Need - and cried at the challenges some youngsters face?Ever watched BBC DIY SOS and shared tears of joy at a transformation of a property which extends way beyond bricks and mortar to touch on the very fabric of family life and help hold it all together?
Stand by with the hankies, folks, because a building ransacked by metal thieves is set to be transformed over coming days into a new centre for young carers in Blackpool.The BBC DIY SOS Big Build for BBC Children in Need set to be broadcast in November.
Children in Need have long assisted Blackpool Carers Centre, a network partner of the national Carers Trust, with the quality of life of young local carers through respite and play.But the makeover of the carers' centre-in-waiting represents support on a epic scale which will change lives of unpaid carers for the better in Blackpool.
The stately Victorian property on Newton Drive, formerly the base of NHS run child development service Blenheim House, will be made over inside and out - with an acre of grounds in a neglected state too.The DIY SOS team - like the charity itself - have seen way past the damage to the sheer potential of the site shining through the grime, mangled metalwork, and sledgehammered walls.
On July 8 the building reverts to the care of Blackpool Carers Centre to enable the 11 year old independent charity to build a better life for carers. It will also be the charity's administrative base - with work on that side to come later.It's a year since Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust bought the building and gave it to the charity - and the charity's Three in Five appeal has been running ever since... the message being that while one in eight (or 10 depending on which statistics you read) are unpaid carers, looking after loved ones, three in five of us will be ... at some point in our lives.
The big name designer deployed to join the DIY SOS team working on the new look carers centre was himself a young carer - Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. And the man who fronts the popular BBC programme Nick Knowles has been touched by the stories of children and young people in the resort helping looking after brothers, sisters, elderly relatives, even their own parent or parents.The BBC team, helped by volunteers from trades across Blackpool, Lancashire and beyond, and other supplying material as well as services, rolls in like a juggernaut on Monday June 27 - and it's all systems go until the Big Reveal days later.
This a huge challenge even by this fantastic team's standards because of the size of the building, the scale of the damage, and - of course - that ever so pressing deadline.In fact, when charity chief executive Michelle Smith first escorted producers Hamish and Charley round the building she thought they might consider converting the annexe. They left, looking thoughtful and having taken loads of photographs, and returned with the offer of the building - once two private residences built in the late 19th century for the grandees of the age.
There were a lot of tears of joy when we found out," Michelle admits. It's nothing to what's to come...And with the shout still out for more trades to respond - any businesses who can help are urged to keep listening and watching for regular updates from project manager Mark Millar across local radio and TV, the press, and social media - the word is help them, if you can.
They need dry liners, carpenters, joiners, decorators, plasterers, gardeners, landscapers, labourers - and many more.And as the team points out: "We can offer the experience of a lifetime and a chance to turn a lot of lives around with this truly Big Build from June 28 to July 7."
As for the young carers themselves? They can't wait. Two new young carers champions were appointed by the charity just days ago - Liam Quinn, 16, and Tara Bragg, 21. Liam nursed his mum throughout her illness - up to her death. Tara cares for her two sisters,one older with Downs Syndrome, the other with other issues.Both say they couldn't have coped as well as they did - and do - without the support of the charity. Both now want to say thank you - and help the charity help other young carers.
And the biggest vote of thanks goes to BBC DIY SOS and BBC Children in Need for making dreams come true - with the help of those Lancashire businesses, whether one-man teams or major corporates, involved.Watch this space. Follow the team on Twitter at @DIYSOS @MrNickKnowles or the charity @BlackpoolCarers. To offer 11th hour assistance email firstname.lastname@example.org