As well as teaching Creative Writing at Northbrook in Worthing, I am also part of a team who tutor Tim, my friend Sally’s son. When he was a tiny baby and Sally had to return to work, I looked after him for a couple of days a week until he was three and a half, so I was right there alongside the family when they received the devastating news that he was autistic. Tim struggled to learn to talk and was still difficult to understand aged five. He regularly retreated into patterning behaviours, often reduced to screaming terror at birds on the grass or a passing lorry.
Sally was fortunate enough to be directed towards John Caudwell’s Children’s Charity, who funded Sally and her husband’s training in the Son-Rise programme and have continued to pay for a number of alternative treatments that have transformed Tim’s life over the years. Through the continual hard work and skilled empathy of his parents and a number of helpers, Tim is now a bright, chatty boy of fourteen, who loves performing in plays, writing screenplays and making films. He is also a talented composer and plays the piano, picking up tunes by ear. We are in the process of preparing him for exams to allow him to attend college and study media with a view to becoming a fully independent adult – a goal that would have been unthinkable only a handful of years ago.
The BGC Charity Day was born out of the horror of 9/11, when the trading bank lost 658 employees, as well as 61 other brokers working on their premises. The bank decided to mark the anniversary by donating all the profits made that day to a charity to support the dependents left behind and over the years this has expanded to embrace a number of other charities. The Caudwell Children’s Charity is one of them, and Sally, Erik and Tim were invited to attend to represent the charity and take part in the day’s events at their London HQ. As Erik was unable to go, Sally asked me to come along, instead.
The atrium was decorated with scenes from Roald Dhal books and lined with a variety of enjoyable activities like table tennis, which Tim particularly enjoyed. There was a selection of food, including delicious vegetarian wraps, tea, coffee, water and soft drinks available throughout the day – as well as the most magnificent chocolate fountain I’ve ever seen. We were taken up to the trading floor at intervals with a number of celebrities, who then helped the traders to close deals amid a flashing onslaught of photo opportunities and a filmed interview with John Bishop.
The views from the building were stunning – Tim commented that everyone below us looked like toys. I enjoyed meeting Chris Hollins, being a Strictly fan. Lindsey Lohan remembered Tim from the Butterfly Ball and spent a significant amount of time talking to children and parents. Tim was delighted to be photographed with the likes of Rio Ferdinand and GB gold medal-winner in the canoe slalom, Joe Clarke, who allowed Tim to try on his medal.
While we often hear how pampered and spoilt the rich and famous are, I was struck by the patience and friendliness of all the celebrities who appeared throughout the day. It was a reminder in a world where greed and selfishness seem to abound and horrible, senseless acts of attrition occur that there are also many, many people who strive not just to help themselves, but go out of their way to also support others. Thank you John Caudwell and BGC, without your generosity Tim’s future would be a whole lot bleaker.