Spectrum WASP (We Are Special People), which also offers help to the families of local youngsters with disabilities and special additional needs, has been awarded £331,069 over the next three years by the National Lottery.
And Sue Edwards, one of the not-for-profit charity’s leaders, admits the grant is very timely because its services have been in big demand since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic .
“Our numbers have gone up fourfold since Covid,” said Sue, who runs Spectrum WASP with Jeni Dubock at Ransom Hall in the town. "As a result, our expenses have snowballed.
"This money will sustain us with regard to costs, such as rent, administration and wages. All our fundraising and the donations we receive also go towards our activities, workshops, family days out and residential breaks.”
The charity is in its 14th year, but as the pandemic took its toll on finances, its future was in serious doubt for a time.
"Not a day went by when we did not think about where we would be without funding,” said Jeni. “The future of Spectrum WASP was out of our hands.
"We became desperately dependent on the application to the National Lottery Community Fund, which was our one remaining hope.”
Sue and Jeni had to wait six months before learning that the application had been successful.
But now they can look forward again, with the funding also giving the charity the stability to develop. It can support three full-time staff and give training to its admirable team of volunteers.
Spectrum WASP supports dozens of youngsters, offering activities and days out that provide respite for parents, families and carers.
For example, last month, the charity’s Teens Club for 11-to-18-year-olds received a visit from Mansfield police.
Eight officers and five vehicles, including even a riot van, went along. Officers showed equipment such as handcuffs and taser guns to about 25 children and young people, who were also able to try on uniform and sit in the vehicles.
"It was a wonderful night,” said Sue. “The officers were so accommodating. They gave an insight into different aspects of their daily jobs, and they stressed to the youngsters that the police are always approachable.
”A special thankyou to Sgt Andy Lee for arranging such a special night for us all.”
Days later, Spectrum WASP kick-started the Easter school holidays with a day out at the National Space Centre in Leicester.
"We all had so much fun and learned lots of new and interesting facts about our planet and space,” said Sue and Jeni. “It really was an out-of-this world experience!”
On the ethos of the charity, the duo added: “For children and young people with special and additional needs, life can be overwhelming.
"So it’s important for us to help them with suitable activities and learning. This gives them a chance to integrate into society and live an independent life.
"We look to provide a lot of fun, but also to encourage new friendships, confidence and skills.”
Interested parents and carers are invited to go along to any of Spectrum WASP’s regular coffee mornings or evening meetings. Check out its website here for dates and details.