‘Leighton Buzzard Mencap has changed our lives!’

(L-R) Standing at the back are LB Mencap volunteers: Mary Sanderson, Cilla James, and Rosalind Winchcomb, with the chair of LB Mencap,  Gaye Beattie.
Sitting down: Catherine Coxall, Victoria Trueman, Ruth Platt, and Sarah Oliver.
(L-R) Standing at the back are LB Mencap volunteers: Mary Sanderson, Cilla James, and Rosalind Winchcomb, with the chair of LB Mencap, Gaye Beattie. Sitting down: Catherine Coxall, Victoria Trueman, Ruth Platt, and Sarah Oliver.

For 48 years Leighton Buzzard Mencap has been the unsung hero of our town, and as June 19-25 marks Learning Disability Week, it’s high time the LBO told its story.

Changing lives across the town, LB Mencap provides support and opportunities to those with learning disabilities and their families.

Mum, Ruth Platt, 42 and Toby, who is now aged seven, and "a very happy little boy", thanks to all the support the family had from LB Mencap.

Mum, Ruth Platt, 42 and Toby, who is now aged seven, and "a very happy little boy", thanks to all the support the family had from LB Mencap.

Like many, Ruth Platt had never heard of the charity before, until a chance meeting at a playgroup changed her life.

Ruth said: “My son Toby was born with a rare chromosome disorder resulting in physical and learning disabilities, and when Toby was 18 months old I was struggling to hold it together. The active children and chatty mums at a local playgroup just emphasised my desperate situation.

“Then, an angel in the form of a grandmother simply said, ‘Do you know there is a toddler group for children with disabilities in Leighton Buzzard?’ This was the turning point.”

Ruth Googled the group, and met Gaye Beattie, chair of LB Mencap, described by so many mums as “an angel”.

Gaye Beattie.

Gaye Beattie.

Ruth attended the LB Mencap Opportunity Group, a term time group for pre school children and babies, which opened up a world of support.

Another mum, Catherine Coxall, encouraged other parents in a similar situation not to be scared of joining.

She said: “My son has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and the group offers me a space to feel listened to and understood by people who truly care.”

Indeed, one lady, who wished to stay anonymous, echoed this, saying: “My son could listen to stories, learn simple songs, and play with toys, while LB Mencap became part of my journey too, from frustrating medical appointments to financial advice and finding the right school.”

The mums admit that life with a child with learning disabilites can be challenging - plans change and people can be unkind in the streets - but thanks to LB Mencap Opportunity Group they have a strong and true “family”.

“Our daughter puts things into perspective,” said one mum, “she teaches us just how far a smile can spread joy.”

LB Mencap also runs: High 5s club (8-16), All Stars group (young adults), the Summer Holiday Club (8-18), and Friends Within (older adults group).

> Call Gaye on: 01296 682190.