Charity Celebrate Founder’s 100th Birthday

Charity Celebrate Founder’s 100th Birthday

Phyllis Edwards, the founder of Diverse Abilities, turns 100 this November and to commemorate her birthday the local Dorset charity is celebrating how far the charity has come thanks to her incredible courage, unwavering belief and sheer persistence that there must be a better way to support those with disabilities.

In 1948 Phyllis’ first child, Marilyn, was born with cerebral palsy. It took two years for her disability to be diagnosed and doctors told her - there is no other option but to send your daughter away, she will only be a cabbage.

But Phyllis was determined that more could be done. Despite many setbacks, Phyllis sent two letters to the Bournemouth Daily Echo in 1955, the second of which received nine responses and within two months a group was formed with the intention to provide better opportunities for children with physical and learning disabilities. This was the start of Diverse Abilities, then known as the Bournemouth, Poole & District Spastics Society.

Within one year the first centre opened in Bournemouth and in 1957 the Society was registered as a charity. From then on, the charity grew and developed to offer more services to more people.

Today, Diverse Abilities supports over 2,000 local people a year through its wide range of services. Over the past 63 years, families have been kept together as thousands of children and adults with disabilities have been cared for and given the support and services they need to fulfil their potential.

Much of the provision provided to local people with disabilities is down to the support from the local community raising vital funds.

Andrea Lennox-Gordon, mum to Victoria who is supported by Diverse Abilities, said:

“If it was not for Phyllis, who knows what life would have been like for hundreds of children and adults with disabilities in Dorset. A life in an institution or hospital away from the family, not knowing how long they will they live and what sort of life they will have.

“I can’t thank Phyllis enough for not giving up all those years ago. Because of her I don’t need to worry about my daughter, as the charity is not only here for her but us all as a family.”

To honour Phyllis’ birthday and continue the legacy for years to come, Diverse Abilities is asking local people and businesses to support the work she started by giving a gift of £100 to celebrate her 100 years.

Ashley Weedon, fundraising manager at Diverse Abilities, said: “Just imagine having a child and being told, there is no other option but to send them away. Like many children and adults with disabilities, and their families, we are so thankful to Phyllis and her determination to succeed.

“If, like Phyllis, you believe that everyone, regardless of the cards dealt to them, deserves to be given the chance to lead happy, fulfilled lives, please donate what you can - all donations would be very gratefully received and will continue the vital work Diverse Abilities does to support those with disabilities locally.”

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