FORCES children with additional needs will be able to enjoy special short breaks with their families this year thanks to a Service charity.

SSAFA’s Short Breaks Scheme allows young people with an additional need or disability and their loved ones to join fun getaways at the Calvert Trust in Exmoor, with a second outdoor activity break for siblings and young carers in Kingswood, Staffordshire.

The free family break takes place from 6-12 August and will allow children aged between eight and 14 and their relatives to try everything from sailing and rock climbing to horse riding and bushcraft sessions.

Before that, siblings and young carers aged between eight and 12 can attend a fun break from 29 May to 4 June to tackle the same activities while making new friends and building self confidence.

Johanna and Michael Hyrcak, who are both in the Army, have four children including Joseph, (12), who has Tourette’s syndrome, a neurological condition which causes involuntary movements of the head and body.

His sisters Jessica (10) and Jemima (8) both attended the SSAFA Siblings Break in 2015 while Jenny (6) stayed with grandparents and Joseph enjoyed some quality time with his parents.

Johanna said: “On good days, you wouldn’t know that anything was wrong, but on bad days, Joseph gets very tired when he gets home from school. It can really take it out of him and he struggles more.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had the opportunity to spend time alone together like that. It was wonderful. We were able to give Joseph our full attention and were able to treat him more like a grown-up – going for coffee together and talking about different things.”

“We all benefitted from the experience. The girls had a fantastic time trying new activities like kayaking, climbing and hiking. When they came home, they’d each made a scrapbook detailing what they’d done while they were away. It was a great way for them to share their holiday with us.”

SSAFA Short Breaks leader, Frances Robinson, added: “The short breaks are an invaluable opportunity for young people to challenge themselves and have fun in a safe, supported environment. It is also an incredibly rewarding experience for those of us who support them.”

Calling all volunteers

SSAFA is looking for dedicated volunteer coaches to support children on the breaks this year. You will need to be available for an induction and information weekend in March/April. Contact the charity to find out more.

To book a short break, contact Hannah Wiltshire on hannah.w@ssafa.org.uk or 020 7463 9275. Families who are based overseas are encouraged to get in touch and SSAFA will consider applications on a case-by-case basis.

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