Where better to give at Christmas than The Children's Adventure Farm Trust

Warrington Guardian: Matt as Santa Matt as Santa

IF Christmas is a time giving, there are not many places is it more obvious than at the Children’s Adventure Farm Trust in Millington.

The charity, which caters for children with severe learning disabilities and from poor backgrounds, goes into overdrive during the festive season.

From the 18th November it offers a month of Christmas parties, five days a week.

“It’s only four hours, but we cram a lot in,” said Helen Crowther, senior trust fundraiser.

“The kids have the most amazing day.

“Many of them coming in here won’t get presents or a dinner, so it’s really important we pull out all of the stops so this is a positive memory of Christmas for them.”

Children visit from hospices, other charities, schools in deprived areas and special needs units CAFT also helps families and parent support groups.

They arrive at 10am at the large farm site on Reddy Lane to be greeted by volunteers dressed up as characters like a Christmas tree and polar bear.

A giant blow up snow globe is used to let children run around and blow off steam, along with pedal go-karts, in a big sports hall.

Hot chocolate is on hand for thirsty mouths in the winter wonderland cafe, followed by a disco and party games.

Children can also visit reindeers Candy and Lola (Donna and Blitzen to them), meet resident chickens and ducks, or take on the outdoor assault course.

A full Christmas dinner is then provided, before a visit to the on site Santa’s Grotto.

Guests open presents together, and leave with a generous bag of sweets at 2pm.

Helen said: “The kids can have all sorts of issues - speech, behaviour, learning - or disabilities are so severe they need support.

“Other children just wouldn’t get a day out otherwise because parents can’t afford it.

“Sometimes we get young carers whose family background has been drug abuse or alcohol.

“We can only do so much but we try to accommodate everybody that needs our help.

“We try to give kids an experience they wouldn’t get otherwise, and some good memories, which unfortunately some of them don’t have.”

As with any charity, CAFT is run by volunteers, including the flagship role of Father Christmas.

When offered the chance to don the red suit and wear a beard for a day (not least because I can’t grow one myself) I was in from the start.

After taking my seat in the cosy grotto, I was visited by 15 children, one by one.

Some had Down’s Syndrome, others more severe learning disabilities, a few who perhaps wouldn’t be going to a grotto otherwise.

It was a charming experience from the off.

In the main, they were thrilled to see me. I nearly blushed as red as the suit when a girl called Chloe marched in confidently, said she loved me and gave me a huge hug.

Asking familiar questions like ‘have you been good’ or ‘what have you asked for Christmas this year’, all was going well.

Under pressure already following previous Santas like Slade’s Noddy Holder and comedians John Bishop and Jason Manford, I decided, unwittingly, to mix it up.

When I asked Adam ‘are you going to write a letter to me this year’, he looked at me pointedly and said ‘I already have’.

Thankfully, a sharp elf bailed me out and said it was being processed.

Watching the children unpack the gifts, donated to CAFT and of surprisingly good quality (a tablet, One Direction Perfume etc), it really did feel a lot like Christmas.

A brilliant charity making a lot of children happy.

Comments (1)

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4:23pm Sun 22 Dec 13

Brick Bazooka says...

Where better to give? St Rocco's I say. That's my opinion anyway.
Where better to give? St Rocco's I say. That's my opinion anyway. Brick Bazooka

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