Amy’s House: Sheffield hero’s double heartbreak drives expansion plans - VIDEO

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LOCAL hero Maurice Littlewood is the Sheffield man they call Mr Handsworth. And for good reason.

If you want a road fixing, a hanging basket repaired or the park improved - he’s your man.

Amy Hurditch: Maurice Litlewood named the respite care centre after his grandaughter after she died from meningitis, aged eight.

Amy Hurditch: Maurice Litlewood named the respite care centre after his grandaughter after she died from meningitis, aged eight.

Maurice, chairman of Handsworth Community Forum, has worked tirelessly to improve the neighbourhood, running community groups, organising festivals and such.

It’s earned him the praise of famous local son Sean Bean - a personal friend - and the MBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours list, for his services to the community.

But more than anything, retired engineer Maurice, aged 77, is most proud of Amy’s House, the respite care centre for five to 15-year-olds borne out of personal grief.

He launched it as a Saturday drop in centre in memory of his granddaughter Amy Hurditch who died of meningitis just days short of her ninth birthday.

Care: Amy's House provides respite care for children with special needs.

Care: Amy's House provides respite care for children with special needs.

Daughter Jayne, now 46, was left caring for her other girl, Molly, whose own special needs meant she lived with a host of health complications and disabilities.

When Maurice realised there was no respite care for such families 12 years ago, he did what local heroes do - he launched Amy’s House, knocking on doors and fund-raising to help raise around £80,000 to run it, in its start-up years.

But tragedy has struck again - with the death of 17-year-old Molly earlier this year from a huge epileptic seizure.

The devastating double heartbreak would have broken most men. But not Maurice.

Fundraiser: Amy's House fundraising co-ordinator Julie Pickering

Fundraiser: Amy's House fundraising co-ordinator Julie Pickering

It’s now driving him, with the support of an Amy’s House committee and lots of community support, to expand the facility from a school base into its own dedicated premises, to provide care seven-days-a-week and cater for up to 21-year-olds, while helping Molly’s name to also live forever.

Plans are to name a room in it Molly’s Mates.

Amy’s House, run by a managing board of trustees in partnership with the Special Needs Inclusion Service, is currently based at Ballifield Primary School, in Handsworth Grange Road, has grown in the past three years from providing care for a handful of families to more than 70 during the summer.

It provides five hours a week respite care on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.

Local hero: Amy's House founder Maurice Littlewood and Sean Bean

Local hero: Amy's House founder Maurice Littlewood and Sean Bean

As plans were revealed today Maurice said: “Molly inspired the creation of Amy’s House when we first realised there were no facilities for families of children with special needs in Handsworth.

“What spurred me on was when one parent said the free time it gave them was like an oasis in their lives.

“I realised if we wanted to go further I needed some assistance, so I invited local people with skills and dedication to form a committee of volunteers. Since then it’s blossomed.

“My daughter Jayne, who is on the committee, and my wife Meriel, they have been a tremendous source of help and inspiration.

“It’s not about leaving a legacy for me or my family. It’s about leaving a legacy of help for families.

“It’s enabled us to make something good out of a terrible event in our lives.

Molly Hurditch: Amy's sister, who died earlier this year - the inspiration for Amy's House and now new expansion plans.

Molly Hurditch: Amy's sister, who died earlier this year - the inspiration for Amy's House and now new expansion plans.

“I get more out of it than I put in. When I walk in here on Saturdays and see the children and they say hello Maurice, I get a warm feeling.

“We are determined and committed to making Amy’s House even bigger because we have a waiting list.

“When we get bigger premises there may be a room called Molly’s Room, for 15 to 20-year-olds. But it will always be Amy’s House.”

Project manager Antonia Seward, 28, of Brinsworth, said: ”It’s the best job in the world. I love it. We’ve a range of activities, including crafts, reading and things like a sensory room, with a big outside play area. We also have outdoor trips, to places like Cannon Hall Farm and Magna.”

Deputy Manager Pamela Fawcett, 43, of Eckington, said: “It’s very rewarding - not like a job but more an enjoyable day out. And it’s great knowing we are providing quality time for parents who need a break.”

Lynne Sharp, 45, and baker husband Darren 46, know the benefits all too well - their 15-year-old son Jake, who has Down’s Syndrome, has been a regular at Amy’s House for years.

“As much as you love your kids - it’s important to have some time for yourselves. Amy’s House is a fantastic place. It’s outstanding,” said Lynne, who has another son, Ryan, 19.

“Jake will miss it, because at present after 15 everything stops. It wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for Maurice. He’s one in a million.”

To make a donation or for more information visit amyshouse.org.uk or email info@amyshouse.org.uk

Singer holds fundraising concert

BIG band singer Paul Pashley is doing it his way to help Amy’s House with ambitious fundraising expansion plans - he’s performing his biggest concert yet for them.

The Sheffield singer, who is making a reputation for himself as the UK’s own Michael Buble, is selling out shows all over the country.

He’s had new songs written for him by Take That’s Gary Barlow, rock superstar Bryan Adams and Sheffield’s own Grammy Award winning Eliot Kennedy.

Now Paul and his 17-piece big band will showcase new songs, swing classics plus his unique big band take on modern pop hits at Sheffield’s Lyceum Theatre, on Wednesday, October 12.

The concert is sponsored by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and MCA in aid of Amy’s House.

Volunteer fund raising co ordinator Julie Pickering says it is one of their most exciting projects of the year but every penny counts - from coffee mornings to every item sold at the Amy’s House shop in Handsworth Road.

“Amy’s House costs about £75,000 a year to run. New dedicated premises might include a beauty and hair salon for mums and an IT suite.”

“The only salaries we pay are to our specialist care staff. Every penny goes to help the children.”

*Tickets for the Paul Pashley concert are £20 each. Call the Lyceum Box Office on 0114 249 6000, call 0114 2565656, buy on line at sheffieldtheatres.co.uk or at www.arenaticketshop.co.uk

Fundraiser: Swing star Paul Pashley will perform at the Lyceum on October 12, 2011.

Fundraiser: Swing star Paul Pashley will perform at the Lyceum on October 12, 2011.

Local hero: Amy's House founder Maurice Littlewood gets kisses from Project Manager Antonia Seward, left, and Deputy Manager Pamela Fawcett.

Local hero: Amy's House founder Maurice Littlewood gets kisses from Project Manager Antonia Seward, left, and Deputy Manager Pamela Fawcett.

Grateful: Amy's House gives respite care to Jake Sharpe, centre, picture with his parents Darren and Lynne.

Grateful: Amy's House gives respite care to Jake Sharpe, centre, picture with his parents Darren and Lynne.

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