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The Willow Tree recreation area opens!

Over 200 people gathered at Outreach 3 Way for the official opening of the Willow Tree recreation area.

Steven enjoys the first go on the new wheelchair swing

A vision for inclusion

What started as a “Wouldn’t it be great if…?” conversation between two colleagues has, 18 months later, led to over £24,000 being raised and a partnership with Thales to build an inclusive recreation area in Crawley for Outreach 3 Way.

Hannah Duffy and her Outreach 3 Way colleague, Tessa Claydon, were sitting on a swing seat when they realised that there wasn’t a local wheelchair swing. The closest one wasn’t walkable and therefore required special organising and a bus to transport the people they support.

Hannah explains:

“We’re incredibly lucky to have huge grounds here but there isn’t much for people to do and we felt the space isn’t being utilised to its best advantage. Tess and I dreamed of an inclusive and safe community area for people we support that could be enjoyed by the local community. There isn’t a recreational area for people with disabilities locally.”

However, the equipment and installation wouldn’t be cheap. They considered how to pay for it using Hannah’s fundraising experience.

Thales CEO Victor Chavez, with Hannah, Steven and Tess officially open Willow Tree

Time to fundraise

The first event was a gig at the local cricket club with Outreach 3 Way band ‘Coasters’ and local group called ‘Slow Time Mondays’.

The gig raised over £1,000! It was a fantastic start and spurred the team on. They set up the Reach out for Recreation Just Giving page and organised more events, including a sponsored wheel and walk to get them to their target.

Other local businesses got involved with the staff from Avtrade raising £5,000 for the project.

The new Willow Tree recreation area
Willow Tree recreation area

Partnerships and team work

In September 2018, a colleague put them in contact with Thales. Hannah, Outreach 3 Way project manager Bob Leeves and Steven Frost, a young man we support, pitched their vision over lunch.

“Steven completely charmed everyone at Thales. They seemed to be really impressed with what we wanted to do and totally understood why.”

Thales were delighted to get involved! They offered to support the build by using it as part of their Leadership Development Programme, the professional development scheme for the top performing managers within the company.

Bob explains:

“The Thales team came to Ifield for the ‘Going Live event’ so that they could fully understand how we work, including a demonstration of the hoists that are vital for many of the people we support.

“Thales were very keen to promote STEM and suggested we include a STEM element within the recreation area, which was something we hadn’t previously considered. It’s really exciting, this adds an extra dimension to what we are building for both the people we support and the local community.

“Manor Green, a local SEND school, already uses STEM equipment as part of their SEND offering consulted with us and are also looking forward to using the completed facilities.”

Eve Maywood, Head of STEM Education and Partnerships for Thales said:

“At Thales we are passionate about supporting our local community and working with Outreach 3 Way has allowed us to develop a really positive partnership within the Crawley area.

“To be part of an innovative project that will develop a much needed outside space whilst creating an opportunity to inspire people about STEM subjects, is not only hugely exciting but also very unique. We have loved seeing this project come to life.”

Making lives better

The recreation area will bring so much joy to the local community.

Hannah and Tess worked fulltime whilst fundraising as volunteers for Dimensions. So it is fitting that Hannah has these final words…

“It was an amazing day, I still cant quite believe it has happened. For me it felt like the earth stood still for just a moment, all the worries disappeared and everyone was included, happy and equal. Which is what this project has been about.”