Charitable efforts keep legacy alive

Milly-Anne Hemley who's wheelchair was provided by Helping Hands
Milly-Anne Hemley who's wheelchair was provided by Helping Hands
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A fund that has enriched the lives of hundreds of Daventry children since it launched in 1980, has been officially awarded charity status.

Pete Spencer’s Helping Hands Memorial Fund provides specialist equipment and days out for seriously ill children and children with disabilities living within a 12-mile radius of Daventry.

The fund has been operating for 33 years and is a household name in Daventry but, with the arrival of new families in the town, Pete Spencer’s son and charity trustee Ian Spencer thought it was time the fund took the next step.

Ian said: “It’s a really big deal for us to get charity status because we wanted to take it up a notch and I think if dad was alive he would be amazed at the progress and the continual support we still receive.

“Helping Hands originally launched when dad met a seven-year-old boy called Danny with a rare ageing disease. Danny wanted to visit Florida and so dad helped to raise the £2,800 needed to grant Danny his wish.

“Dad then decided to devote the rest of his life to helping local seriously ill children.”

The fund gained momentum from that point onwards attracting the support and trust of local people who wanted to help with fundraising. Pete Spencer started off helping children as individuals but began taking large groups of poorly children on trips abroad.

In 2005, while on one of those trips to Eurodisney, Pete Spencer suffered a heart attack and, tragically died.

He had told his son that he hoped Helping Hands would continue if anything happened to him - and so Ian honoured his dad’s wishes and took over the fund in his memory.

Ian said: “When dad died people used to stop me to say how sorry they were but the very next thing they asked about was Helping Hands.

“Initially I didn’t know if I would receive the same support from Daventry people as dad did but the support was fantastic and very humbling.

“I am extremely proud of what dad achieved and the way people got behind him.

“What he loved to see was children having a good time and it’s a real privilege to be able to continue his work in his memory.”

Today Helping Hands still makes a huge difference to children in Daventry with recent donations including a wheelchair to Milly-Anne Hemley of Long Buckby who’s right foot and lower leg was amputated last year, a number of iPads to children with autism and a mobility scooter for Daniel Ball from Daventry who has muscular dystrophy. Jago Worrall from Welton also received a custom wedge which acts as a support and Grace from Daventry received an under the mattress sensor which detects night time epileptic fits.

Ian said: “We don’t target one type of child, we try to help children with a whole range of illnesses and needs. Over the years we have worked with hundreds and hundreds of children and we make a big difference which is really nice.

“One parent told me the gift we gave her son unlocked his world and that stays with me.

“But really without the local support and people’s fundraising we couldn’t do what we do and it’s down to them.”