As resurfacing jobs go, it wasn't one of Technical Surfaces' largest ever contracts. Yet its ability to change one little boy's life was right up there. Alice Northrop visits a garden in Castle Bromwich, Birmingham to find out more about this heartwarming project
When I was first told by Pitchcare's Operations Director, John Richards, about this story, I struggled to decipher who was doing what, and how everybody fitted together. Punjabi Wolves, Promise Dreams, Technical Surfaces, the Jaggers, I wondered where on earth to start, and who started it all. It has turned out to be a fantastically warming process however, and yes, it has restored my faith in humanity just a tad. In fact, it may even have sparked my interest in artificial turf, but don't tell anyone …
It starts with Mason Jagger, an eight-year-old boy with severe autism and Global Developmental Delay. Mason has strong sensory needs which often results in him feeling frustrated and displaying challenging behaviour as he seeks sensory satisfaction.
Mason's mum Claire talked to me about the challenges that she and her husband Jason face with Mason: "If he just had severe autism, it would be much more manageable. He's got autism and he doesn't speak at all, as well as having learning difficulties and behavioural problems. He can be very unpredictable and he is hard work, bless him." Although only eight years of age, Mason is wearing size 'small men's' clothing already and Claire worries about how much harder it will get to keep him out of harm's way. "He is more loving than a 'normal' eight-year-old, he gives me the best hugs. But there is that other side where you just don't know when he's going to turn."
Whilst playing at home or at school, Mason often puts handfuls of mud into his mouth and throws himself to the ground as a way of gaining sensory satisfaction. "If there are stones, he will find them! He digs around and collates them all," Claire tells me.
Claire and Jason Jagger were desperate to transform their garden into a safe space for Mason to play and wanted to lay artificial turf so that he could gain his sensory needs without being in danger of hurting himself.
This is where Promise Dreams and Punjabi Wolves come in; the two charities that have funded Mason's new playing area. I spoke to Raj Singh Bains, of Punjabi Wolves, about his work and the charity's involvement in Mason's dream: "Punjabi Wolves was founded to give Asians a voice in football. We are an established charity, and have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds since we started." In fact, the charity has raised £350,000 to date, with a huge £30,000 of that raised in their first event alone. "We then went to deliver one of the dreams for Promise Dreams and, from then on, we donated to the charity every time we raised money."
These days, the charity raises money and then helps individuals and families directly, and Promise Dreams gets in contact when they feel that Raj and the team can help. "We find it very difficult to say no," Raj tells me, "and a lot of the families that come to us are very proud and don't like asking for money, so we never say no to anybody."
Raj had a call from Promise Dreams a few months ago about Mason's dream. "We have never met the Jaggers, but they needed help in funding, and Promise Dreams was able to provide a certain amount, so we said yes to providing the rest," Raj tells me.
Claire talked to me about how grateful she and Jason are, and how shocked she was when Raj rang her to say the money was being transferred. "He was really lovely. I just couldn't believe someone would just hand us so much money. They didn't discriminate against us because we work either, like a lot of charities do. A lot of people find it easier to get the money because they are on benefits, even when they don't have children quite as demanding as Mason. Just because Jason works, does not mean we have lots of money to spend."
I am sat with Claire in her sitting room, and her four-year-old son Harry is bringing me toys to play with. They are honestly the loveliest duo to spend a morning with. Claire tells me about the process of finding the funding. "We filled out an application and then spoke to Promise Dreams. It was quite quick really. I think they funded half of it, and then they asked me whether I minded them passing our details onto Punjabi Wolves."
Talking to Claire reminds me of what Raj said about the families he comes across that don't like asking for money. Claire and Jason obviously like to deal with their situation in their own way. "We did have disability nurses and people to help with aggressive behaviour, but I didn't find anything useful. I just like to deal with things. It is hard, but you've just got to deal with it."
Claire and Jason's routine, along with the help of Mason's school and the respite they receive, as well as Claire's mum, who is wonderful with the children, means that they somehow manage to find a balance, and it is good to see that they have received the financial help with this project.
This is where I introduce the last piece of the puzzle, Technical Surfaces Ltd., who installed the artificial turf at the Jagger's home. Regular readers of this magazine will know Technical Surfaces as UK based synthetic sports pitch maintenance specialists and, for projects such as this, the company use SowGreen® Classic artificial turf.
SowGreen® Classic is made from polyethylene yarn, which is designed to accurately mimic both the colour and texture of real grass. It is soft to the touch, so should not graze skin. It has a 36mm pile height, vibrant mix of three separate colour tones and integral brown thatch, which makes it ideal for anyone wanting to make a statement or brighten up their garden. It also incorporates a special C-Shaped yarn which helps the grass to recover to its original shape.
Kerry Long, Project Manager at Technical Surfaces, along with Richard Dunnan and Gary Pepper, were there fitting the new turf when I arrived at the Jagger's house in the morning. Kerry had already visited the property a few months beforehand to survey the area: "There are no drains and no electrics, so it has been pretty straightforward."
He explains the process to me: "We took up the existing turf and then put in 50mm of granite stone to dust. We then water and whacker it so it gets nice and compact. A geotextile weed membrane is put over the top and we then put the grass on top of that, and trim around all the edges and around any trees and obstacles. In this case, there is nothing to cut around really. Then we dress the grass with silicon sand to stabilise the carpet. The sand acts as a ballast and keeps the fibres upright. That's it really."
I ask Kerry about the lifespan. "Well, for this type of use, forever really. It's never going to wear out. I have the same at home, the children have grown up and left and now the dogs just play on it. It looks as good as it did when it first went down."
The maintenance is also straightforward, "just use a stiff yard brush to get the piles back up if there has been anything on the grass. The turf also won't fade in the sun as it's completely UV stable."
This is where I leave the team to it. They are, after all, extremely busy at this time of the year.
As well as this, the company are busy 365 days of the year maintaining artificial pitches, "with the gardens and installations, we are quite sporadic so, if the boys aren't working on those, they hop onto the big machines to maintain the pitches."
Saying goodbye to four-year-old Harry is the next thing to do, and I struggle with that one a bit! It looks like the boys will get a lot of joy out of their new garden, and speaking to Claire afterwards while she coordinates a photo shoot of the boys for the magazine (top tip: bribe them with cookies), she tells me that the lawn looks brilliant and they love it. "Brilliant" is most definitely what they deserve, and I hope the lawn is just one step towards maintaining the balance they work so hard for.
Punjabi Wolves Charity
The Punjabi Wolves Charity comes from Punjabi heritage and gives Asians a voice in football. The established charity raises thousands of pounds through sponsored events: from 100km in a day cycle rides, to galas.
The charity now raises money and helps individuals directly, with some of their work this year including:
• £11,000 for a specialist wheelchair
• £5,500 to fill a room at Walsall Hospice with specialist equipment
• Re-laying a front drive for a young boy with a rare disease
• Fitting a house with rails for a girl with Cerebral palsy
Promise Dreams is a national registered children's charity that was launched in 2001 to make dreams come true for seriously and terminally ill children, and their families, across the UK.
The charity accepts applications for children from birth to eighteen and whether the child would like some time away from hospital appointments and treatment for a family holiday, specialist equipment to ensure the best possible levels of care are maintained at home or even the chance to meet their favourite celebrity whilst they still can, Promise Dreams is committed to help.
Tragically, time is not something that many of these families have a lot of, so raising a few special smiles and creating treasured memories is what Promise Dreams is all about.
Thanks to the hard work, passion and enthusiasm of its supporters, the charity has raised in excess of £2,000,000 and more than 1,250 very special children have seen their dreams come true.
Promise Dreams organise a range of fundraising events throughout the year from golf days to gala dinners and fun runs, so why not get involved?
Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by impaired social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication, and restricted and repetitive behaviour. Autistic people see, hear and feel the world differently to other people.
Autism is a spectrum condition. All autistic people share certain difficulties, but being autistic will affect them in different ways. Some autistic people also have learning disabilities, mental health issues or other conditions, meaning people need different levels of support. All people on the autism spectrum learn and develop. With the right sort of support, all can be helped to live a more fulfilling life of their own choosing.
Global Developmental Delay
Global Developmental Delay (GDD) is the general term used to describe a condition that occurs during the developmental period of a child between birth and 18 years. It is usually defined by the child being diagnosed with having a lower intellectual functioning than what is perceived as 'normal'. It is usually accompanied by having significant limitations in communication. It is said to affect about 1-3% of the population.
The most common signs of GDD include:
- The child is unable to sit on the floor without support by 8 months
- The child is unable to crawl by 12 months
- The child has poor social skills/ judgment
- The child is unable to roll over by 6 months
- The child has communication problems
- The child has fine/ gross motor difficulties
- The child shows aggressive behaviour as a coping skill
There is no single treatment for GDD, but there are ways to help some of the conditions that may be causing the delay.