They say having a baby is one of the most exciting times in a parent’s life, but it can also be one of the most daunting and isolating.
In 2007 Alison’s daughter Ruby was born with a very rare and incurable condition called Isodicentric_15 or IDIC 15 syndrome, meaning she was born with a partial duplication on chromosome 15. Feeling very isolated and wanting to connect with other parents in similar situations, Alison went on an exhaustive search for local groups to join where she and Ruby could have playdates and she could talk openly and honestly with other Mums and Dads about the journey they were all on. It quickly became apparent there wasn’t anything suitable in the area and that if she wanted something, then she’d have to set it up. Not deterred and wanting to help others, the idea of Ruby’s Fund was born.
After finding a suitable location, lengthy fundraising and securing of grants, in September 2014 Ruby’s Fund opened its doors. Offering a safe stimulating environment to children where they can play regardless of their ability, it’s now used by up to 800 people per month and has 9 employees and 80 volunteers. It brings parents, grandparents and carers together, basically anyone who’s in need of support and is a place where people can chat over a cup of tea, share advice and knowledge, seek help and most importantly find friendship and fun.
It has become a community hub and many parents have said Ruby’s Fund has helped them to celebrate their child’s own achievements as opposed to hitting the standard milestones. They also say that it’s given them the social support they desperately needed and that without it they would have felt quite alone on their unique journeys. The ethos at Ruby’s Fund is that ‘Everyone should be together regardless of their ability and people should be accepting of everyone’s imperfections. Everyone is welcome. If a child has emerging needs, they can come to Ruby’s Fund, for support, advice and emotional opportunity.’
As with any charity, IT is crucial to its survival. However it’s not always an area which they can dedicate the specialism too or the budget. Prism became aware of the work Ruby’s Fund were doing when Ruby’s Fund were awarded ‘Charity of the Year’ at the East Cheshire Chamber of Commerce Awards and Prism wanted to get involved. Keen to take away their financial and technical IT burden, Prism set them up with the IT infrastructure they needed, installing fully backed up, networked computers, laptops, tablets and an email system, plus training. Prism also took on the day to day maintenance and support meaning Ruby’s Fund didn’t have to worry about this or finding budget. Recently, the provision of two Tablets, as part of the Prism Winter Wonderland donation for the centre, allows visitors to sign in electronically and course leaders can use the tablet devices to help them deliver course content.
Talking about Prism’s support, Alison said “By having Prism as our IT partner, Ruby’s Fund have been able to set up a well visited website, built up our online presence, promoted our fund raising events and schedule of activities, captured service user statistics and so much more. Their recent donation of £1000.00 from their Christmas Winter Wonderland event will help us develop an App and allow electronic sign in for visitors to the centre. What Prism have done for us can’t be measured, their support is invaluable.”
Ruby’s Fund and Prism are already collaborating to ensure the continued success of the charity to help parents, carers and children have the fun and support they deserve. Top of Alison’s list is to develop the information and resources available and make them easier to access for carers. Though things have come a long way since she started the charity, Alison says, “the medical professionals are fantastic at dealing with the medical side of things, but it’s still very difficult for parents of children with special needs to find practical information out there on things such as equipment, local support, social activities, helpful websites etc. and they still very much rely on word of mouth”. Working with Prism she wants to share her trusted network by offering a private on-line forum where parents can safely log in and have a chat or look for help on subjects relevant to them, such as an autism or post-natal depression website for example.
They are also developing an app together that will capture data on service users providing valuable statistics to help them apply for funding and develop a database that can be used for targeted communications and newsletters.
Ruby’s Fund also have plans to become a short break provider for children with complex and specialist needs, build an outside sensory garden and lots of fundraising plans including drop in sessions, discos, and parties. Prism’s £1000.00 donation from their Winter Wonderland event will help with the development of the App and streamlining the management of the centre. It’s going to be a busy and successful future for Ruby’s Fund and we’re only too happy to help them.