Text: BORO73 £5 to 70070

JPC Respite Village

As a baby, the future was uncertain for James Connuaghton:: Fifteen years on, he's doing well - and inspiring an ambitious care plan

Parents of a teenager with cerebral palsy say his life journey has inspired them to sell their home and set up a respite centre in his name.

When he was nine months old, doctors struggled to even diagnose just what was wrong with James Connaughton.

They were living in Ingleby Barwick at the time and shared James’ story in the Gazette to raise awareness - even though the future seemed uncertain.

Dad Paul recalls: “We were told he was brain dead, he’d be a vegetable all his life, he’d never walk or talk. But we wanted to prove them wrong.”

A diagnosis of hypertonic cerebral palsy with global development delay was eventually secured and James - now 15 - has gone on to show real improvements and become much more socially aware.

Despite this, though, nagging away at Paul and wife Julie have been worries about what will happen to James in the future - especially when they saw TV coverage of the Winterbourne Care Home scandal in Gloucestershire, where some carers abused disabled patients.

They wanted something much better for James and youngsters like him - and that’s where their respite centre plan comes in.

 

Julie Connaughton with daughter Abigail ,7, and her son James in 2001
Julie Connaughton with daughter Abigail ,7, and her son James in 2001

 

Having received no respite care at all during James’ first 10 years, and still being reluctant to leave him overnight with anyone other than exclusive family members, they believe a specialist centre will offer children and parents - in short, families like them - the valuable time and space many need.

They now hope to sell their home in Maltby and move onto a site they’ve identified nearStokesley where the centre will be built.

But with an initial funding target set at £1.4m, they know it won’t be easy.

Paul, 50, said: “For us it had been our worst nightmare, not knowing how James will live when we are gone.

“After nearly a year of brainstorming and speaking to other parents, we decided this would appear to be our ideal option and enable us to leave a legacy behind.

“We wanted James and children like him to have a quality of life filled with happiness and security. What is also unique about the centre is it will allow parents to base themselves on the same site, while the child or adult is being taken care of.”

 

 

Paul, a former police officer who is now regional manager for car care firm Supagard, said the Percy Hedley School in Newcastle, which specialises in children with cerebral palsy and where James travels to and from each day, is supporting the idea and offering help and advice.

If all goes well, Paul and Julie, who runs the Gossip fashion lifestyle magazine, hope to get the JP (James Paul) Connaughton Respite Village up and running within two years. Initially, around six residential places and four carers’ rooms would be available. Facilities could include riding lessons, an outdoor play area, a small petting farm, trampolines and numerous indoor activities - all based around conductive education involving physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. The well-being of parents would also be catered for, with stress management and counselling services.

But now the search is on for supporters to help back the dream - financially and otherwise.

Paul said: “Some people might think we’re mad but what’s the worst that can happen? If it doesn’t work out, at least we can look James in the eyes and tell him ‘son, we tried’. But we’re not thinking like that - we’re determined to make this happen. We can’t afford to let this fail for James and others like him.”

For more information, email pd.connaughton@btinternet.com or julieconnaughton1@gmail.com. And for more about the scheme, visitwww.gofundme.com/jamesrespitecentre

JCP Respite Village

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Event Date 29-05-2016 9:30 am
Registered 2
Cut off date 27-05-2016 6:00 pm
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Route in Middlesbrough - Sheet 1 - 14 March 2016.pdf
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