The Dunne family only recently enjoyed their first visit to Daisy Chain after their eldest son was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

But they immediately realised what a special place it is and decided to hold a fundraising Big Picnic to raise funds to celebrate Daisy Chain’s fifteenth anniversary year.

Inviting friends and family to the event saw them raise a fabulous amount – over £350.

Mum Dawn and dad Michael have two sons – ten-year-old Samuel who is on the autism spectrum and seven-year-old Freddie.

Dawn explains, “We did know about Daisy Chain but we didn’t access it at first. We spent a year coming to terms with Sam’s diagnosis. Then a family who live near us recommended trying it so we decided to give it a go. It’s a wonderful place, fabulous for families. We have only been going a short while but we want to increase the time we spend there as Sam grows more comfortable and confident.

“We loved the idea of holding a Big Picnic to raise funds – we felt we wanted to do what we could to help. It’s a wonderful community to get involved with. Our visits have been lovely. It was great to get in the car to go home and think that we had a nice experience that had been easy. Usually when we go out there is too much going on and Sam wants to come back home but at Daisy Chain there are plenty of activities to focus on.” 

It was initially suspected that Sam may have autism when his speech was delayed and he was referred to the speech and language therapy service at two years old. Dawn explains, “His speech was so delayed that at that time they could only say that he may be presenting with autism. I think we always knew though so it was frustrating waiting for a diagnosis.”

As Sam goes to a specialist school, he struggles to make friends outside of that in his home area so Dawn and Michael are delighted that he is settling into Daisy Chain and starting to make friends there. Dawn says, “Sam can find it hard to socialise. He tries to talk to other children in mainstream environments but he talks about what he wants to talk about and struggles to get anything back from them. It’s hard as a parent to see the other children just looking at him, unable to understand.

“It was also very useful to us to get help and advice from Daisy Chain as you don’t realise what support and activities are out there that you can access.”

At Daisy Chain Sam can get involved in activities that he would struggle with elsewhere. Says Dawn, “He can play table tennis and basketball with his dad without people judging him. He can be loud but the staff just say let Sam be Sam and that is what we love about Daisy Chain. Freddie loves it too – they both like the gardens and Freddie loves the animals.

“I just want Sam to be happy and not stressed. We don’t want to lose the happy little boy we know and love. He never fails to amaze us with what he can achieve given the encouragement and the right environment. We are looking forward to accessing Daisy Chain even more in the future. Once Sam is confident enough we hope to get him into an after school social club and to take part in the holiday activity sessions. 

“Daisy Chain is a fantastic resource and we want to continue to support and help the charity in any way we can because it is so good for us all as family.”