Brave Ebony's fight for disabled families

Ebony Whitehead, 12, of Riccall, with her mother, Sam Laing

Ebony Whitehead, 12, of Riccall, with her mother, Sam Laing

Updated in News York Press: Photograph of the Author by

A COURAGEOUS schoolgirl who lives with Cerebral Palsy is fighting to see her dream of better facilities for children with disabilities and special needs become a reality.

Twelve-year-old Ebony Whitehead has designed an activity park complete with accessible garden, sensory room and physiotherapy suite, and which she hopes will give children and families a much needed space to enjoy themselves away from their homes.

Ebony lives in Riccall with her mum Sam Laing, sister Erryn, 17, and brother Callum, 16.

She said: “It would mean lot to me if this became a reality. I want somewhere to go with my friends where I don’t have to rely on a carer.

“And it would help other people, other families, and it would be good for groups like youth clubs.”

At the moment, the lack of facilities for families like Ebony’s in York and Selby means she cannot enjoy her teenage years and her independence, and Sam said it is frustrating to see her bright daughter unable to get out and about without her help.

She said there is only one park in York with equipment for wheelchair users, and every time they have visited Homestead Park the swing has been locked up and there has been no park attendant to open it.

That just leaves one hydrotherapy session at Energise on a Sunday afternoon, or a trip to Goole swimming baths, for Ebony to enjoy herself outside of home.

Sam, 36, is a full-time carer for Ebony and has had several operations for back problems herself. She said the lack of facilities for disabled children has meant “twelve years of frustration” for her.

Ebony’s park would also give carers like her the chance to get some much-needed respite, she added.

“It would benefit Ebony and I think other families with disabled children would welcome it with open arms.”

The plans came together when Ebony, a Year 7 pupil at Fulford School, was challenged to come up with a community facility as part of a school project.

Her teachers and classmates were then so impressed with her ideas they threw their weight behind the scheme, and Ebony now has hundreds of letters of support from pupils at Fulford and Applefields School.

Assistant headteacher Dan Bodey described Ebony as a fabulous student who does not let her disabilities hold her back “one iota.”

She plays a full part in the school community and is involved in several extracurricular activities, he added.

“Ebony is someone who always has a smile and makes others smile too.”

Ebony attends Bee Able - a group for young disabled people run as a Community Interest Company by Lesley Senior - and went to Community Engagement Forum in Riccall on March 12 to help raise support for the group's big future plans.

Lesley said: "What a fantastic piece of homework from Ebony, in the future we hope it will become a reality."

Bee Able has been fundraising heavily for big plans for its future, Lesley added, and although ther is a lot of work still to be done she hopes that Ebony's ideas will be a part of the Bee Able's future.

Mum Sam added: “This is Ebony’s idea and we are going to threw ourselves behind it.

“I am so proud of Ebony. I couldn’t ask for a better daughter. She’s so mature talking to her is like talking to an adult, and she’s got a wicked sense of humour.”

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