YOUNG people from a Down syndrome group and their families have taken on personal challenges to keep spirits up and raise thousands of pounds.
Together 21 is a project managed by the Pioneering Care Partnership, in Newton Aycliffe, providing weekly education sessions for babies to teens with Down syndrome and their families – playing an essential role by giving families support, information, learning and friendship.
During lockdown, families have created their own 21-inspired challenges at home and shared them on social media to stay connected to friends from the group.
Consultant Maggie Hart was amazed at the creativity of ideas as well as the dedication the children put into tasks which ranged from 21 different cooking recipes, 21 new books, learning 21 new signs and completing 21 Joe Wicks sessions.
She said families have kept the spirit of teamwork alive whilst being physically separated.
Caroline Turner, mother of three-year-old Leo, whose challenge was to walk 2.1km over 21 days using his walker, said: “This has shown the determination to do as much as we can to keep Together 21 up and running. We are proud to be an extended family as well as an essential support group, something that has meant more during these difficult times over the last few months.”
Adults have done their bit in the 21 Challenge too by working up a sweat running 21 miles or completing 21 workouts.
Parent volunteer Leanne Baister used social media to raise more than £500.
The 21 families that have taken part in the challenge have raised about £10,700.
Nigel Brough, head of projects at the Pioneering Care Partnership, said: “We are all so proud of the incredible work and commitment that our children and families have shown during these testing times.
“It’s amazing to see the group keeping the Together 21 spirit alive while social distancing.”
Mrs Hart said the money raised is essential to help the group to continue, as it relies on fundraising, grants and corporate sponsors.
She said: "It will make a massive difference to us.
"It was World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, just after lockdown, which would have been a massive event for us.
"We knew we couldn't go ahead, so we were really saddened by that.
"But I've been so proud of how kids and families have got involved and stayed in touch, and raised funds. It is important to keep our family together during these different times.
"We know in the immediate future funding will be focussed around Covid-19 projects, and rightly so, to help most vulnerable but our kids are vulnerable too. We need to keep the support system strong so we've had meetings online, shared videos of people having fun and even had a new mum with a ten-week-old baby join, which is lovely."
Mrs Hart's 15-year-old son Alex was joined by brothers William, 14, and Ben, 11, for 21 consecutive days of 121 bounces on the trampoline at their home in Middleton-St-George. On the final day he tripped and broke his foot so William stepped in to do twice as many.
She starts her own challenge this week, doing comedian Miranda Hart's Maracattack fitness DVD for 21 days in a row.