Lynne Connor Assistant AdministratorSince Lesley Hanson first had her dream of creating a haven for families affected by autism, Lynne Connor has been supporting that vision.

From fundraising, cleaning, manning stalls and now working as an administrator for Daisy Chain, Lynne has been with the charity since its inception in 2003.

And Lynne readily admits she had no idea that Lesley’s dream would grow to the size it is now, "Lesley would have loved what Daisy Chain has become. It truly is the haven she dreamed of for families affected by autism and it is now so much more. The expansion into offering support for adults and those who want help getting into paid employment is fantastic," she says.

Lesley and Lynne met when both their children attended the same primary school with a specialist speech and language unit. Lesley’s son Jacob was diagnosed with autism and Lynne’s son Chris, now 24, was too.

Lynne explains, "One day she told me she had decided to start a charity for families affected by autism and invited me to a meeting at her house. She said she wanted to create a place where children like our boys could go and play without anyone judging them. I remember I went home and said to my husband Paul that it was a fabulous idea but how she would make it happen I would never know."

One of the first fundraising events was to hold a dinner dance at the Marton Hotel and Country Club in Middlesbrough – the origins of the current flagship annual Winter Ball that Daisy Chain holds.

Says Lynne, "Lesley then went and spoke at The Oakwood Centre. She had 15 minutes to inspire support and she did, she was always very passionate and enthusiastic."

Albert Dicken, Chair of the Daisy Chain trustees for 15 years and now a patron, supported Lesley and she began to search for a farm at which to base the charity.

"We looked at a farm in Middlesbrough first and then we came here to Calf Fallow Farm and Lesley thought it was perfect. I came in and helped clean the farmhouse in readiness for open evenings to which Lesley invited many social care professionals, then I made the teas and coffees at the meetings. I would come in and clean every Tuesday."

When Judith Haysmore, former chief executive came on board, Lynne moved on to admin work, answering the phones and eventually moved into paid part-time work in November 2007. "Admin work was what I did before I had Katie and Chris and I had to fit my hours around Chris as I had to take him to school. He was so anxious that he would often be sick before he went into school so I had to be with him."

Lynne recalls all the hard work that went in to fundraising for the Day Centre. "We had lots of fundraising nights, collections, stalls, BBQs in the barn. We were trying to raise awareness also as there was not so much known about autism then.

"It was a lot of fun and I still look back and laugh at some of the crazy things that happened. We had two donkeys which managed to get out and Lesley got a call that they were walking down Station Road and she had to go and collect them. Someone donated her a soft play and we had to go and collect it along with thousands of plastic balls – we didn’t even have anywhere to put it then."

When Lesley died suddenly after a routine operation, Lynne recalls how shocked and upset they all were. "She was out of hospital and on the phone to us and we were all joking that she had to get back in as we needed her so it was totally unexpected. She would love what Daisy Chain has become. If it wasn’t for Lesley’s vision we would not have this amazing charity and facility that we have now."

Looking to the future, Lynne is delighted that Daisy Chain is now expanding into more support services for adults. Chris has completed the Employability course that Daisy Chain runs based at the charity’s Portrack Lane superstore and Lynne is hoping he will soon be able to take part in a supported work placement position. "Once they reach 18, it’s like falling off a cliff, there simply is very little support to access so it’s great that we are now trying to fill that gap. As Lesley would say, it will still then be ‘somewhere for our boys’."