Paul Good’s involvement with Daisy Chain goes back into the mists of time before the organisation even existed.

As a friend of both founder Lesley and husband Duane, he was one of the first to hear of Lesley’s idea to create a safe haven for children diagnosed with autism.

“At that time, none of us really had much of a clue about autism. Lesley and Duane’s son Jacob was diagnosed with ASD and they began to meet other parents whose children were also receiving diagnoses. Lesley realised how difficult life could be for them without a support network. She wanted to build something where parents could see their children playing in the fields while they were supported to find out more information,” Paul explains.

“Anyone who knew Lesley knew how focused and determined she was, if she got an idea in her head you knew that is what you would be doing. We were all fairly young and forging our careers, we didn’t have lots of money so we had to think about fundraising. Every chance we got we would do a raffle and we started off the annual boat race a year before the charity was even set up. It is still a good fundraiser, raises awareness and is a great team building exercise for all those that take part.”

Lesley set up an initial meeting at Norton Cricket Club and Paul explains, “There was about 50 of us at that initial meeting and I don’t know anyone there who didn’t commit to supporting the charity. Lesley had a way of talking to people, making them understand what she wanted to create and how she would achieve the dream. She had the energy and drive to ensure it happened. We were all happy to volunteer our help, time and knowledge.”

When the farm was bought by the Goshen Trust, Paul recalls, “We wondered what do we do now? This is the dream, Lesley’s dream but how do we make it a reality? Originally, we had thought about overnight accommodation for respite for parents but it very quickly became obvious that would be difficult to achieve.

“To get things started off we bought some geese, they were a great burglar alarm and by sorting out the farm grounds. Weekends would find us filthy, covered in mud but there was a real sense of community and achievement at the end of a hard day’s work. But we needed to be more than a group of friends. We had to get more businesses involved too.”

As more parents heard about Daisy Chain, Paul was delighted to see them having a place to go to meet and learn from each other, “At a time when there was little understanding of autism, this was a way for people to share experiences and learn strategies for handling behaviour. Daisy Chain would also manage to bring in professionals to talk to the parents which meant they got direct access to information and advice and at the same time they could see their children having fun and enjoying themselves on the farm. If a child was upset and had a meltdown, it wasn’t an issue as everyone understood so that meant parents could relax as there was no-one staring and judging.”

Paul, who set up his own business, Good Mortgage Solutions at Preston Farm four years ago and employs three full-time staff and two part-time staff, is a member of the Friends of Daisy Chain corporate networking group. He continuously raises awareness of the organisation through both professional and personal contacts.

Says Paul, “Where Daisy Chain is now, 15 years later, is almost unbelievable – it’s gone from a group of friends trying to make it happen to a major source of support for 2,000 families affected by autism in the Tees Valley. Lesley did a radio interview not long before the farm was bought – I heard it last year for the first time in 15 years and it still left a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

“It’s amazing to see it continue to develop to now support young adults with autism and improve their employability skills. When we were starting off, it was to provide a haven for parents with young children, we weren’t thinking 15 years down the line what might be needed when they became young adults.”

Today, Paul continues to support Daisy Chain events attending the Winter Ball and other events, raising money – he set up the Pirates of Yarm dressing up and taking out collecting tubs. He’s also an ambassador championing the cause and educating people in its history.

Paul concludes, “It’s important to many supporters that Daisy Chain is a local charity for local people. Lesley’s original dream was to support a thousand families, it’s now 2,000 families being supported so she’s got to be happy with that.”

9th May 2018