Undaunted by a weather forecast threatening downpours, the second Stepping Out Carers’ Walk of the year at Hole Park, near Tenterden, attracted another full-house of over 50 people. The main lure was the woodland path which wound its way through a carpet of blue and white, as bluebells and wild garlic jockeyed for space beneath the trees. But, a close second behind that annual attraction, was getting together for another sociable mini-break and introducing new friends to the gang.
Thomas and his mum, Margot, were first-timers who had discovered the walks through the Involve Carers organisation. Usually Thomas, who dances with the renowned “In Step” modern dance troupe, based at Brockhill, Hythe, enjoys his activity a little more live wire but as Margot said: “This was more for me. The opportunity to meet other people somewhere lovely and relaxed.
“I think it’s great people getting together to go for a walk, instead of sitting in front of the TV or just doing nothing. Meeting all those new people at once was a bit ‘WOWWW’ for Thomas. He’s used to going out with just me and the dog but he’ll get used to it in time. It allowed me the chance to take photographs – something I love to do as a hobby.
“As with everything with my little man, you just sow the seed and then wait for it to grow.
“I remember the first time I took him to dancing. He hung at the back and didn’t want to join in but now he’s the life and soul of the dance floor. He joined one group called “Confidance”, for people with special needs, and was even headhunted for a mainstream dance group because he’s so good. I don’t know where he gets it from. I dance like a penguin. Sometimes he says he doesn’t want to go to dance, but being his Mum I tell him that you can’t let people down and once the curtain goes up he’s there.
“He tells me: ‘When I’m dancing, I forget all the horrible things.’ It’s a therapy. I’m so glad we found it by accident.
“His other passion is football. That’s been absolutely wonderful. I help run it: ‘5-a-side Fun’. Sometimes people come along to watch, point at one of the players and say: ‘What’s wrong with him? What’s his disability?’ I tell them, ‘They don’t have disabilities, they’re just part of our group. It’s more about what they have in common – playing football – than what sets them apart. They’re normal people with little additional things about them. Thomas has needs – yes – to be loved, to be nurtured, to be encouraged.
“We’ll come back on another Stepping Out . It’s a pleasure for me. I’m a full-time carer so when I can I like to immerse myself in a book, or get lost in a piece of elaborate, colourful cross-stitch or to disappear off with my camera. I seem to have an eye that sees totally different things to other people and those bluebells were beautiful. That’s why I took a picture of one on its own. Unique in its own way. Like people.”