Super hero son inspires life changing help

Sky Badger

Every day Sky Badger helps around 1,000 families with children who have life-limited and life-threatening conditions.

The UK-based charity has come a long way in the five years since four mums set about finding support for youngsters with disabilities.

Along the way they’ve been adding to their achievements, and this year Sky Badger scooped two accolades at the AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards. The prestigious annual awards recognise organisations and individuals that use digital technology to improve lives. Sky Badger won the BT Connected Society and Winner of Winners accolades.

We sat down with co-founder and chief executive Naomi Marek, to find out more about the Sky Badger story and how they are using technology to make a difference.

AbilityNet Tech4Good Award winnersNaomi, congratulations on both your AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards. What does winning mean?

Winning the Connected Society Award was extraordinary... and then to be voted best overall by winning the Winner of Winners Award has totally blown me away.

Because all of us at Sky Badger work virtually from our homes, cafés or hospitals we rarely get to see the big picture. So to meet the other organisations fighting to change the world bit by bit was great.

Winning the Tech4Good awards will hopefully raise our profile. Perhaps we can find a tech company partner to work together towards helping even more families? Actually, if any of your readers would like to help us, we’d love to hear from them.

Let’s go back to the beginning. How did Sky Badger start?

Sky Badger was born one afternoon at a charity event for families with children who have life-limited and life-threatening conditions. It’s not a club anyone wants to be a member of, but us four mums sat chatting, as mums do, while eating our children’s left-over biscuits.

We were talking about how tricky it is to find held for our children at school, to get advice about their medical conditions, to find a holiday that wouldn’t judge our children’s learning conditions or behaviours. Everyone seemed to know a couple of organisations or websites that could help, we shared what we knew.

Then gradually we put what we found out about on a Facebook page... and it snowballed. So we decided to do it properly and in October 2012 we set Sky Badger up as a charity.

How did you get your name?

My son Max, who has complex needs, came up with the name. Sky Badger is his superhero alter ego. When he was little, he used to tie a tea towel around his neck and shout “Sky Badger!!” and with his newly engaged superpowers, he’d launch himself on unsuspecting grownups. Five years on, Sky Badger finds help for about 1,000 families, just like our family, each day.

What kind of support does Sky Badger provide?

Sky Badger levels the playing field by finding educational, medical, financial and social support for families with disabled children all over the UK.

We’ve found more than one million disabled children and their families’ new sports clubs, help at school, grants for trikes, therapists, family support and free holidays and summer clubs. Our services and e-helpdesk are available 24 hours a day and 365 days a year and are completely free.

How do you reach so many people?

Sky Badger is a new kind of web-based charity. We thrive on working with others and empowering families to find great adventures for their disabled children.

Our staff and volunteers research new charities, services and opportunities and tell families about them on our website: http://www.skybadger.co.uk, Twitter feed, Facebook page and YouTube video channel and a confidential e-helpdesk.

Sky Badger communicates ‘virtually’ so mobility issues, disabilities and time limitations pose no obstacle. We work with hundreds of other charities, businesses, schools and colleges. We use technology to evolve quickly and respond to needs at the click of a button.

What motivates you to keep going?

There are lots of facts that show why we do what we do (see list below) but from a more personal point of view, I know how bad it can get when you feel totally alone, when you can’t help your child, when you feel lost and don’t know where to turn. For me, I do this because I don’t want anyone else to ever feel like that again. I think that’s a pretty fine reason to get out of bed in the morning.

The facts are horrible… 

  • The annual cost of bringing up a disabled child is three times greater than that of bringing up a non-disabled child. (Cabinet Office)
  • About sixty per cent of children and young people with both learning disabilities and mental ill health live in poverty. (NHS: Closing the gap)
  • Forty-five per cent wanted to run away from their role as carer and fifteen per cent turned to drugs or alcohol as a way of coping (Carers Trust)
  • Seven out of ten families caring for someone with profound and multiple learning disabilities have reached or come close to ‘breaking point' because of a lack of short break services. (Mencap) 

With everything that Sky Badger has achieved, what are you most proud of?

That’s a really tricky question. I think I’m most proud of some of the mums that we’ve helped. Mums should always know best. That’s kind of our job. We also have magical powers in making our kids feel better. The tragedy of a mum feeling helpless is almost unbearable. So, for me, I think knowing that I’ve helped mums find their children’s path, grow their confidence and become the warrior queens that our disabled kids need has been the best bit.

Also, my own son Max starts college in September. He’s overcome such enormous hurdles as has his little brother. Max has been the making of me. I know there is nothing I can ever do that will be as brave as he is, so in terms of pride…there’s no comparison. I’m most proud of my boys.

Do you have a message for anyone interested in supporting Sky Badger?

We would absolutely love to hear from anyone who wants to help. Whether they’re individuals, students, professionals or businesses… we have ways that they can make a real difference. We’ll also make sure it’s fun too.

You can reach out to Sky Badger by email, Twitter, Facebook or by calling 0845 609 1256.

For tons of really helpful information, visit the Sky Badger website. And for more news on all of this year’s winners, check out AbilityNet Tech4Good Awards.

 

 

 

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