10 Years of the Young Shoulders Programme

 In News, Young Shoulders

Celebrating Ten Years of the Young Shoulders Programme

It is hard to believe that at Cancer Fund for Children we have been supporting children and young people who have a parent or carer diagnosed with cancer through our Young Shoulders Programme for over ten years.

In that time we have helped over 1,500 young people aged 0-24 coming to terms with their parent’s diagnosis. 

About the Programme

The Young Shoulders Programme was set up in 2008 in response to the needs of young people who were struggling to cope with their mum or dad’s cancer. We found that these young people would benefit from the opportunity to speak about their parent’s cancer with someone outside the family, and would also benefit from peer support, as well as opportunities to boost their self-esteem and have fun.

We began delivering a programme by bringing young people together to help tackle issues such as separation anxiety, fears for the future, coping with school and family life and the stresses attached to caring roles. 

Big Lottery Funding Boost

In 2016, thanks to the Big Lottery Fund, we were able to enhance the programme to help us meet the growing demand for support.  Today we employ four Young Shoulder’s Specialists who provide individual support, as well as community based and residential group work to connect, empower and strengthen young people and their families. 

We also provide free therapeutic short breaks for the whole family at Daisy Lodge, in Newcastle Co. Down and free self-catering breaks at our cottages in Coleraine.  Teenagers aged 14-17 can also complete their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award with us.

Making A Difference

Julie Sullivan whose daughters Lucy (14) and Hannah (9) have both been supported by the Young Shoulders Programme, after she was diagnosed with a recurrence of thyroid cancer in 2017 said,

Julie Sullivan and her daughters Hannah and Lucy who have been supported by Cancer Fund for Children

Julie with daughters Hannah & Lucy

“I think Cancer Fund for Children are amazing.  They do so much for families, in particular the young people who are finding it difficult to get their heads around what is going on at home.

“Being a single parent it has been really difficult.  I lost my mum when I was 25 so my girls have seen what it’s like not to have your mum.  That was playing on their minds, the fear that I was going to die.  They were having nightmares and were very clingy to me.  My youngest didn’t like it when I was going into hospital.

“The best thing about the Young Shoulders Programme for Lucy and Hannah is that they have met other young people they can relate to and talk to.  It has been hard for them to speak to me about my diagnosis and how they are feeling.  When they are on residentials, even just knowing they are with other children, the same age, who are going through the same thing as them has really helped.  They know they are not on their own.  Having that support has been amazing.  It has also taken the pressure off me. Seeing them go away and having fun has taken their mind of what has been going on at home and that makes me so happy.”

Memorable Moments

Reflecting on 10 years of the Young Shoulders Programme Cancer Fund for Children Specialist, Gareth Beattie said,

“It would be hard to pick out just one memorable moment over the last 10 years. I would have to say seeing the growth of children who have come through the programme and how it has been life changing for them has to be my highlight. From the child who completed a climbing wall for the first time and now believes they can conquer any fear, to the child who was able to leave their mother’s side and go to school again. It is so rewarding and inspiring seeing children smiling and simply being able be children again.”

You can find out more our Young Shoulders Programme and the support we provide here.

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