Colin Laver and his wife Helen made the first ever donation to Daisy Chain – “It was the grand sum of £2 to open a bank account,” he chuckles.

It came about as the couple were having dinner with Lesley and her husband Duane. Colin says, “Lesley told us all about her dream of a haven for children with autism. At that time, she went to a crèche with Jacob but said she felt uncomfortable because her child was different. She wanted somewhere she could go and feel comfortable and felt that if she needed that then surely there were other parents who did too.

“Lesley was so passionate about starting a support group believing there were lots of other parents in the same situation who needed to talk and needed somewhere to let their children have some freedom without feeling uncomfortable. Lesley was really excited about the idea and was asking for ideas on what she should do next. I can’t remember why but for some reason there was £2 on the table and Helen pushed it across to her and said ‘open a bank account’ and that was the start,” Colin smiles. 

“When she got Calf Fallow Farm, I would pop in and help out. Of course, we were devastated when Lesley died, it was so unexpected. There was a real sense of needing to make this dream live for Lesley.”

Colin was then a full-time teacher so his involvement was occasional volunteering, “Seeing Daisy Chain develop and grow was amazing,” he recalls. Then five years ago when he retired from teaching, Colin volunteered with Daisy Chain. His background in teaching and bringing children with special needs to the farm from his school Rosebrook Primary in Stockton, meant Colin was ideally placed to work one-to-one with students.

“I also did some travel training with students, using public transport and practising how to get from A to B independently. It was important for the students to have skills to get places by themselves.” 

Colin’s final role was working in the crèche at Daisy Chain before he chose to retire at 65. “I have loved being at Daisy Chain, to see it grow from that first £2 to a million-pound purpose-built day centre, the barn and the farm. But what really makes Daisy Chain special is the people, their dedication is incredible and it is more than just a job for the staff.”

Despite becoming a teacher, Colin admits he has real empathy with what the charity does. “I struggled myself at school. My first day at primary school I was caned seven times because I couldn’t sit still or stop talking because I was so excited. I was also afraid of the dark and noise, I hated having to go to a railway station because it was so noisy.” Colin left school without any qualifications and later discovered he had mild dyslexia, “It was sport that saw me through,” he admits.

Now Colin hopes Daisy Chain will continue to go from strength to strength, “When you look out over the fields and the site you can see the future potential of what the charity can offer. It has grown so much and there are some amazing people offering some really wonderful support for families.

“It’s been fantastic to see everything that has been done over the years to fulfil Lesley’s dream. She would have loved it.”