Making Memories… Giving Hope

Meet the people making Christmas wishes come true in Fenny Bentley this year

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"I just feel so loved right now. I feel like I'm an important person," said a little girl on a CHICKS break in Fenny Bentley back in October. CHICKS gives children who feel lonely or worried the chance to be themselves and be loved for it.

Every week throughout the year, our teams of Respite Break Leaders and volunteers support some of the UK's most vulnerable children to make friends, have adventures and find their confidence on a week-long respite break. From splashing in the rivers in their wellies, to building dens and braving the dizzying heights of rock climbing walls, their week at CHICKS is filled with excitement and adventure.

And Christmas is no exception.

This year, children will travel from homes where they might feel sad or unhappy, and step foot into a sparkling old farmhouse in Fenny Bentley, Derbyshire decked with tinsel and Christmas trees. They'll bake gingerbread cookies, giggle with new friends and wake up on Christmas morning to find stockings packed with presents, all for them!

Together with Santa and his elves, it's CHICKS Respite Break Leaders Hayley Mann and Will Sinclair – along with a team of incredibly generous volunteers – who'll be making Christmas wishes come true this year for a special group of children at CHICKS.

For the first in our Christmas series, click here to meet break volunteer Adam.

For the second in the series, click here to meet CHICKS cook Dawn Kenny.

"From the moment the children arrive at the retreat, we want to make it feel extra special for them – like a normal CHICKS break, but with even more of a family feeling than normal. The retreat will look like a winter wonderland and we'll be playing plenty of Christmas music!

A volunteer and a child outside during a Christmas break
A team of Respite Break Leaders and volunteers help deliver Christmas at CHICKS

"They'll have the chance to make their own decorations and add them to our Christmas tree, and maybe do some of the activities we'd do on a normal break, like horse riding or rock climbing. But really, their few days with us will be about simple pleasures and having time to relax, just like everyone else around the country. We'll allow plenty of time to watch Christmas films and enjoy playing with new presents and friends.

"Christmas Eve is the part of CHICKS Christmas that we're most looking forward to. As we get closer to the evening you see the children getting more excited, finally able to get into their pyjamas and snuggle into their beds – not forgetting to put the carrot out for Rudolph and a mince pie for Santa! Seeing a child on a past break totally adamant he didn't need to be part of that tradition, then sneaking as close as he could to the tray, peering over shoulders to see what happened, is one of our favourite memories.

"On Christmas Day, we'll start like everyone else… by opening presents! Seeing the children's faces come alive with excitement and gratitude as they open each gift is one of our favourite moments. Last year a little girl cried as she opened her presents, unable to believe they could all be for her. As she opened each, she described just how she would use it, before carefully placing each back in its paper again. After presents we'll play games, have a huge dinner and go out on a little walk for some fresh air.  

"Boxing Day is one of our favourite traditions. We'll have a meal out and go to the pantomime. We love seeing the children lean forward, totally enthralled by the magic of the theatre.

Two girls enjoying a Christmas break at CHICKS
The CHICKS retreat is turned into a winter wonderland for the Christmas break

"Really, we just want to make them feel happy, because Christmas is meant to be a time of happiness, and without CHICKS they might not have the chance this year.

"They may not be able to spend Christmas with their families, but we hope they'll create memories they'll never forget. Whatever happens, they'll be spending Christmas with people who care about them, want them to feel important and hope they can be free of the worries they have at home. Our Christmas wish is that they'll go home feeling full of love, a little light and a lot of hope."

Give a child the best gift they could have wished for in 2019. Click here to make a donation, call 01822 811020 or text CHICKSMAS to 70085 to donate £10 (this costs £10 plus your standard message rate). Thank you!

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