HUNDREDS of special needs children are being re-united at fun-filled summer holiday picnics to mark the end of their Covid isolation.

Until the onset of the virus registered charity Durham Area Disability Leisure Group (DADLG) worked for more than 30 years to meet the, “dreams and wishes” of youngsters.

But their county-wide sport, leisure and social activities, providing key face-to-face contact they and their families craved, was lost during the lockdowns.

Now the four picnics, funded by Durham County Council, with additional support from Durham City Freemen, are providing a feast of “fun and food,” offering the first step in the transition back to a “new normality” for DADLG’s growing number of families.

About 200 children, aged two upwards, are attending the picnics, with their parents, carers and siblings, in Horden’s Welfare Park, Riverside Park, Chester-le-Street, Wolsingham Recreation Ground and Sedgefield’s Hardwick Park during the school summer holiday.

Project manager Lesley Clelland said: “In March last year we had to take the very sad decision to halt all our usual activities and then immediately thought hard about ways to provide some sort of interim service.”

A regular newsletter was followed with two-way “conversations” via photographs and social media feedback and delivered themed activity bags to each family.

Video conferencing has also given families an extra chance to communicate. For those without the media technology Kindles were provided.

Durham’s Freemen gifted £250, following a £2,000 donation two years ago, to buy circus skills toys, including juggling balls, spinning plates and diablo equipment, for use at the picnics.

“The number of families seeking our help has continued to grow throughout the pandemic and we will be catering for those hardest hit during the last seventeen months. We are grateful to the council for the confidence they have shown us and to the freemen for their repeated generosity.

“Our aim is to put smiles back on faces of children and adults who have missed all the close personal contact opportunities that they so highly value,” said Ms Clelland.

John Booth, Chairman of the Wardens of the Durham City Freemen and a member of its charitable trust, said it was a “privilege” to support DADLG’s “outstanding work”, providing leisure activities for children, young people, their parents, families and carers.

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