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Special award honours charity founder Phyllis Edwards
A REMARKABLE Bournemouth woman who founded a charity to help disabled children more than 50 years ago has been honoured with a lifetime achievement award.
When Phyllis Edwards’s daughter was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of two the doctors told her to put her away as she would be “a cabbage”.
Despite her mother’s resistance Marilyn was certified and institutionalised when she was five – it was simply the way things were done at the time.
Frustrated at the absence of support for families like hers she decided to take action – and with a letter to the Echo urged other parents of children with cerebral palsy to get in touch.
Nine letters came back and Phyllis held the first meeting in her home in West Howe in 1953. Within a few short years their society had raised funds to set up a rest centre and then build Langside School in Bournemouth, which remains a specialist school to this day.
Their group, which became the Dorset Spastics Society, then Dorset Scope and now Diverse Abilities Plus, went on to do much more and now supports hundreds of local people of all ages through education, residential and day care, leisure activities and supported living.
It has had continuing support from Phyllis, along with late husband John who for many years was the charity’s chairman – despite her suffering with ME since her early 40s. Now, at the age of 94, Phyllis Edwards’s inspirational efforts have been recognised with a lifetime achievement award at the Wessex Charity Awards.
She told the Echo: “I find it hard to believe how it all happened. It just goes to show that if you’ve got that determination to do something, it can be achieved. I really thought something could be done for these children “It seemed so wrong to me when Marilyn went away. I thought someone was bound to do something – I waited a year – but nobody did. Then this small voice inside me said – what are you doing? So I wrote to the Echo and that was how it all started. It’s amazing really. We have gone from strength to strength. I feel we have been truly blessed.”
The charity has changed many lives – including that of Phyllis’s daughter. After years in institutions Marilyn was eventually moved to Edward House – a residential care home built by the charity in the early 1970s. Now, aged 64, she lives in an assisted living bungalow.
Phyllis said: “It’s a home – and that’s what she’s always wanted.”
The lifetime achievement award was presented at the charity’s offices in Poole on Monday by Jenny Warner, MD of Charisma Charity Recruitment which organises the awards, and Steve Andrews, relationship director at Santander, which sponsored the award.
Phyllis added: “I just feel so humbled by it – I never imagined I would get an award. It was the children I was thinking of – how they should be helped, not pushed into the background – how people should accept them how.”