Mencap centre changed our lives

Lisa Allen with her daughter Rebecca, son Aaron and husband John took part in the Mencap walk at Ormeau Park in Belfast on October 20.
Lisa Allen with her daughter Rebecca, son Aaron and husband John took part in the Mencap walk at Ormeau Park in Belfast on October 20.

Proud Mum Lisa Allen and her own little hero, son Aaron (3). together with husband John and little sister Rebecca got theitr walking shoes on recently in aid of Mencap NI, something Lisa thought would never happen until Aaron attended the Mencap Children’s Centre.

The family took part in the learning disability charity’s first Princess and Superhero Walk on Saturday October 20 at Ormeau Park in Belfast and they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience, helping to raise much needed funds for the centre along the way.

Aaron Allen having fun at the Mencap Centre in Newtownbreda. Photo by Aaron McCracken

Aaron Allen having fun at the Mencap Centre in Newtownbreda. Photo by Aaron McCracken

When Lisa was 28 weeks pregnant with Aaron, she was told that he would have Duodenal Atresia, which causes intestinal obstruction where the stomach and intestines are not joined together, plus one in three people with the condition may have a chromosome disorder.

When Aaron was born, he was diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, a heart condition, congenital cataracts and had to have surgery on his stomach and intestines on the day he was born.

At 10 weeks, Aaron had eye surgery, at 12 weeks he had heart failure and is still under review with Cardiology, in fact for the first year and half of his life Aaron was in and out of hospital, his weakened immune system meant he had to be isolated at home and kept away from other children. Mum Lisa said: “Aaron had seven surgeries by the time he was two, his life he seemed to be constantly in surgery or recovering from operations.

“It was a difficult time as every operation was so serous, it was a constant worry about what to do.

Lisa and Aaron at the Mencap Centre in Newtownbreda. Photo by Aaron McCracken

Lisa and Aaron at the Mencap Centre in Newtownbreda. Photo by Aaron McCracken

“Then Aaron got a place at the Mencap Children’s when he was two and recovered from all his operations and they just took all the strain away.

“It was unbelievable, Mencap changed our lives and empowered us to look after our child, we would have been lost without them.

“Before the Mencap Children’s Centre Aaron had never walked, but slowly he learned to use a walking frame and now runs around in it, his communication improved so much, that although he is non-verbal he can understand a lot more and has learned several signs and can make his needs known.

“His social skills improved so much he was now able to interact with other children and play, it was so wonderful to see that, just like any other child.”

Proud Mum Lisa Allen, from Lisburn, daughter Rebecca (aged 6 months) and her own little hero, son Aaron (aged 3) walked for Mencap NI last weekend.   Photo by Aaron McCracken

Proud Mum Lisa Allen, from Lisburn, daughter Rebecca (aged 6 months) and her own little hero, son Aaron (aged 3) walked for Mencap NI last weekend. Photo by Aaron McCracken

Lisa never imagined that one day she would completing a charity walk with her son but thanks to the help and support of Mencap, the Allen family were out in force to support the charity.

“We loved the walk,” she said. “It was such a lovely day.

“Aaron loved the warm up to Baby Shark and we all had an exercise session led by Batman.

“Seeing the children’s faces light up was priceless. Aaron loved having a dance in his walking frame and Q Radio played all his favourites.

Proud Mum Lisa Allen, from Lisburn, and her own little hero, son Aaron (aged 3).

Proud Mum Lisa Allen, from Lisburn, and her own little hero, son Aaron (aged 3).

“We felt so proud when we finished. Aaron has came through so much and always has a smile on his face.

“To finish with the cheer from the Mencap team was amazing. The staff cheered us on the whole way. Seeing Aaron receiving his medal from his key worker Claire made us so proud and happy.

“We would definitely do it again. Maybe next year Aaron will walk a bit more independently. We hope so. It was such an enjoyable day and the children got spoilt with superhero fun and lots of attention, they just loved it.

“I would 100% recommend the walk to others. Meeting up with other families who also have a child with a learning disability is so worthwhile. We have met a lot of amazing friends thanks to Mencap. It’s a perfect chance to get out with all your family, while supporting an amazing, much needed charity.

“Mencap has changed our lives and the staff are always so welcoming, I would ask everyone to support them.”

Mencap’s Superhero and Princess Walk helped to raise funds to support the Mencap Children’s Centre in Belfast, which works with 52 children a year, aged two to three with a learning disability, autism and global developmental delay.

The Centre works in partnership with the Belfast Health Trust and has speech therapists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists all based at the Mencap Centre providing all the treatment in one place.

Margaret Kelly, Director of Mencap NI thanked everyone who supported the walk. She added: “All money raised will help give children like Aaron the best start in life and support families across Northern Ireland.”

Find out more about the work of Mencap online at https://northernireland.mencap.org.uk.