After Bruce Merrick’s daughter listened to a talk by a Daisy Chain volunteer at her workplace, she went straight home and told her dad he had to help.
And that is how Bruce found himself out on the Norton farm on cold winter nights in the dark with a head torch on, helping to erect the perimeter fence. “Believe me, if you dropped anything on the ground in those conditions you had no chance of finding it again,” he laughs.
Bruce continued to help out with his church group ‘Men who Care’ while he was working. “We spent quite a lot of time helping to keep the grounds in check as in the beginning, they were overgrown so there was a lot of work to do to get that under control. We also did painting, computer wiring and a host of other jobs.”
Through the Men Who Care group, he knew the father of Daisy Chain founder, Lesley Hanson, as he was involved with the charity Turn Around Homes that provides homes and support for people with substance misuse issues and the homeless. “As a group, we used to do work for that charity as well,” he explains.
When Bruce retired from working for a safety equipment company ten years ago, he decided to offer more help to Daisy Chain. “I thought it would be good to do some more jobs around the farm so I did quite a few, helping out on switchboard and looking after reception. I also ordered in the janitorial supplies.” Using his skills from working for a safety equipment supplier, Bruce also kept all the safety records for the janitorial materials for the charity.
Having been involved since the very early days, Bruce reflects, “I knew nothing about autism at all, I just wanted to be of help and you very quickly got to know people. Daisy Chain is a family charity, both for families and like a family to all those involved with it. I still keep in touch with people who used to be part of it.
“I got to know a lot of parents, especially working on the switchboard and reception. The parents group, Links, was and still is a really important part of what Daisy Chain does. Those parents really needed the support of the charity and of each other.
“It’s amazing what it has grown into since then. In those early days, all we had was the farm house – now the charity is very well known and much bigger with more services and resources to help families. However, it is still important that people fundraise and volunteer to keep that going.”
Over the years, Bruce has volunteered at many events for Daisy Chain trying to give time to six events every year. “I really enjoy the May Day Open Day – I’ve been to almost every one of those since Daisy Chain started. The Boat Race is always a great event and the Carol Service is lovely every year.”
At 71 and with a lung condition, Bruce has had to ease back a little. He’s also enjoying being Grandad to two-year-old George, his daughter Karen’s son. But he’s always willing to step in when necessary – from car park duty to donning Daisy Bear – there is little he hasn’t done for Daisy Chain and he has no plans to retire yet.