Shropshire Star

Charity had boy with Down's Syndrome bouncing with joy

Katie Peacock remembers the joy on the face of her son Christian when he played on a trampoline in the family garden.

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Football-mad Christian Peacock

"I think back to all the years of joy and excitement we all got from that, as well as Christian," she recalls.

Christian, now 15, was born with both Down's Syndrome and Hirschsprung’s disease, which meant that his early years could be a tough time for both mother and son.

Hirschsprung's disease meant part of his bowel had to be removed at Alder Hey Hospital when he was a baby, and Down's Syndrome not only affected his physical development, particularly with regards to his joints, but also led to a delay in his learning.

Katie, a 54-year-old care worker from Market Drayton, says it was two years before Christians could take his first steps. Now at the age of 15, simple tasks such as crossing the road take special effort.

Christian Peacock with mother Katie and brother Samuel

But the trampoline, provided by the Family Fund charity, enabled him to share a simple pleasure like any other child. And as his brother Samuel got older, the trampoline meant the two were able to share this joy together.

The Family Fund, which celebrated its 50th birthday this week, has provided a grant to Christian for every year bar one since he had the trampoline when he was four.

Most of the time, the money has gone towards family holidays.

"Holidays were so important to me when I was growing up, and I always wanted Christian to have the same experiences that I enjoyed.

Christian Peacock enjoys a holiday with his mother Katie

"We are going on holiday to Greece again in July, and it's all that Christian will talk about.

"We went on our first holiday abroad about four or five years ago, and he was able to go in the pool, and the play area."

The Family Fund was established on April 2, 1973, as part of a £3 million package by the UK Government, initially to provide support to families affected by the Thalidomide scandal.

Football-mad Christian Peacock, 15, with mother Katie

Between1958 and 1961, the supposed wonder drug was administered to expectant mothers as a cure for morning sickness, but a link with severe birth defects was quickly established and the drug was withdrawn.

In 1968, Distillers Biochemical, which had distributed the drug in the UK, agreed to pay £28 million in compensation following a lengthy legal battle. The British Government agreed to make £20 million available to families affected by the scandal.

The fund's first grant was a contribution of £26 for a father to travel from Wales to visit his sick daughter in hospital. Since then, the charity has provided 1.5 million grants and services to severely disabled youngsters, with a unique story behind each one. Last year alone, the Family Fund delivered 170,919 grants and services totalling £37 million, with the number of applications increasing by 135 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak.

Christian Peacock, 15, enjoys playing snooker

Katie, who split with the boys' father in 2011, says bringing up the children alone can sometimes be challenging, but the support of the charity makes such a big difference.

Chief executive Cheryl Ward says the pandemic has had a dramatic impact on families bringing up severely disabled children.

"Families continue to tell us our grants make a huge and practical difference to their everyday lives and for many they remain a lifeline," she says.

Christian Peacock, 15, has Down's Syndrome, but doesn't let it stop his love of football

“However, we are needed now more than ever, and continue to see the highest numbers of families coming to us for help in our history, with a 135 per cent increase in grant applications since before the pandemic.

"Families are overwhelmed by living costs and facing staggering financial pressures which are now affecting their children’s quality of life."

As well as giving grants, Family Fund also offers support to families raising disabled or seriously ill children, on a low income. This includes help with money and benefits, budget planning, their children's education; mental health and wellbeing, as well as digital training and creative activities.

Christian Peacock with mother Katie

Christian now attends the Severndale Specialist Academy, in Shrewsbury, which has taught him how to develop his independence, performing tasks such as going to the shop.

"He is football mad, but he can't play yet, he can't keep up with it," says Katie.

Christian has also taken up dancing, even performing with his dance group on the stage of Shrewsbury's Theatre Severn.

"It's amazing to see his confidence, I'm so proud of him," Katie says.