Easter holiday fun is ‘lifesaver’ for families facing adversity
FEAST activities north Yorkshire Oliver Groom

When eight-year-old Oliver Groom lost his father last year, it turned his world upside down.

For Oliver’s mother, Becky Groom, despite being estranged from her ex-partner, it also brought new challenges. Fortunately, Ms Groom found some support from FEAST, which provides free activities and healthy meals to eligible children and young people in North Yorkshire during the school holidays.

Ms Groom lives in Scarborough with her son and is the manager of a busy local pub. Oliver attends mainstream education but receives additional support from social services and Early Years teams, as he finds some social situations at school very challenging.

The school has worked closely with Ms Groom to ensure Oliver gets the support he needs and both agreed he would benefit from extracurricular activities during the school holidays.

Ms Groom said: “When Oliver’s dad died, I lost all that support – he was an extra parent and always helped out in the holidays. Not only that, but the child maintenance payments which I had received from him stopped. It was really difficult.”
With her finances now even more constrained, the cost of putting Oliver into holiday clubs was out of reach for Ms Groom. She added: “The amount it was going to cost me was so extreme, it just wasn’t an option for us. I felt like I was up against a brick wall.”

Fortunately, having learned of the family’s situation, the school made them eligible for FEAST vouchers and Oliver chose to attend Nigel Carson Sports School over Christmas where he particularly liked playing football, dodgeball and cricket.

Ms Groom added: “Oliver loved going to Nigel Carson Sports School because there were so many different activities to take part in each day. The staff all understood what had happened and were fantastic in supporting Oliver – he knew who he could talk to if he needed someone. He came home every day in a great mood, and it was so reassuring to me to know he was well looked after.”

Bookings are now open for the Easter holidays, with thousands of free places available across the county.

FEAST, which this Easter takes place from March 25 to April 8, is coordinated by North Yorkshire Together. North Yorkshire Council receives funding for the programme from the Department for Education.

Open to all children and young people in North Yorkshire, those who are eligible can attend for free and also receive a hot meal or packed lunch.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for education, learning and skills, Cllr Annabel Wilkinson, said: “The FEAST programme is making a real difference to the lives of young children and their parents/carers across the county.

“Since its launch in Easter 2021, thousands of children have already taken part in previous programmes over the summer, Christmas and Easter periods, with many families reporting that the clubs are a lifeline. If your family is eligible, please don’t miss out on this great opportunity for your children.”

Meanwhile, finding something to do with the children in the school holidays can be tricky for most families. What is more, keeping an autistic child occupied, alongside a sibling who is not neurodivergent, is a real challenge. Fortunately, Skipton resident Sarah Brearley found the perfect solution in FEAST.

Miss Brearley’s 11-year-old son Teddy attends a special needs school to support him with his autism. When his after-school club shared information about FEAST activities during the holidays, Ms Brearley looked into it straight away.

She said: “With Teddy, keeping him in that daily routine of 9am to 3pm during the school holidays gives him some stability and rhythm, making the transition from and back to school less disruptive.”

Miss Brearley signed Teddy up for Kanga Sports, in Skipton, where he has been able to take part in a range of fun activities with other children his age. The impact on Teddy was huge.

Miss Brearley added: “For Teddy to go somewhere and feel entirely accepted, he could be himself and we didn’t see any negative behaviours. The team at Kanga were absolutely brilliant – they’re really geared up for active kids who want to run around all day.”

FEAST activities North Yorkshire families Teddy and Nala
FEAST holiday activities were crucial in keeping Skipton siblings Teddy and Nala occupied during the Christmas holidays last year.

 

Meanwhile, Miss Brearley’s 10-year-old daughter, Nala, chose to go to Wild Explorers, near Skipton, where she took part in outdoor activities in the woods. Nala attends mainstream school, which Miss Brearley said played a big part in their decision to split the siblings up.

“The kids aren’t used to spending huge amounts of time together, and during the holidays if we don’t have activities planned, they fight,” she said. “This way, the kids were able to do something they both enjoyed, separately, and they got on so much better afterwards.

“They both came home more confident and keen to show each other what they had learned.”

North Yorkshire Together’s strategic director, Max May, said: “We’re grateful to the Brearleys for sharing their story, which highlights the profound impact that FEAST can have on families. We’re thrilled to see how FEAST is providing vital support to children like Teddy and Nala, offering them opportunities for growth, confidence and joy during the school holidays. As we approach Easter, we’re committed to reaching even more families across North Yorkshire, ensuring that as many children and young people as possible have the chance to participate and benefit from the great opportunities FEAST has to offer.”

Eligible families across North Yorkshire will receive information about FEAST and a voucher to book their free place via their school. More details are available on our Families FAQs page, or check out our activity listings.

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