Last day but their enthusiasm, enjoyment, hard work and smiles have not faded and in fact, I think they have all stepped it up a notch today. They know today is all about the Show but instead of the usual morning focus on practice and cleaning Mark is allowing them some treats and time to chill. So after breakfast and the pole drop it is time to get changed as the AERIAL APPLIANCE is waiting!!! (Love it, did you guess?). The instructors and Senior Crew are prepping for this afternoon so the rest are in the classroom watching the funnies from previous Show DVD’s. The bursts of laughter can be heard miles away I am sure. Whilst they are watching we take them out two or three at a time to go up in the aerial appliance. I persuade two young men that they really aren’t confident enough to go up without me so I get a ride too – sorry Myles and Stephen – and we take a GOPRO camera on a selfie stick with us. I don’t even know which way the camera was facing so you may have beautiful scenic aerial views of Swindon or just a close up of Stephen’s nose! You’ll find out on Movie Night.
Show practice commenced as soon as we had all gone up in the appliance. They worked so hard. Lunch courtesy of Domino’s pizza and a big helping of salad. Then down to get kitted out for the Show.
They all did fab in the rehearsal but excelled themselves this afternoon. I hope you loved it as much as they loved doing it. It was great to see you all there.
Now I believe in tradition so as this is Friday and the last day of Salamander I now need to tell you a bit about all those that have supported and cared for our young people over this week. The fact that I am now a permanent fixture in the Salamander team makes not one bit of difference as far as my blogs are concerned. I have wine in hand, do you? Great, then let’s begin.
Jo – she has to come first. I don’t think anyone loves Salamander more than Jo (except me ) and this shows in everything she does. SDSG Salamander starts a year in advance with planning and preparation and Jo is right there every step of the way. On the course she is constantly watching, helping, encouraging, supporting and advising. She loves the fun, laughter and activities but never shirks from the routine, mundane and serious such as nose wiping, face cleaning, wet sock collecting and toilet trips. We couldn’t do it without her and you wouldn’t want us too.
David – returning from last year because he just really, really wanted to. He shows respect, firmness and kindness. He knows what to do and can communicate this to our young people, helping them but only as much as they need. A calming influence over them all.
Chris – did his first Salamander course just a couple of months ago and seeing the qualities that he possessed we invited him to return as Senior Crew on this course. What a brilliant decision! Chris treats all our young people as equals. He chats and has fun and is a brilliant role model. He worked so hard and was the last to leave today as he cleared and tidied and offered his help. A lovely, likeable, friendly, confident young man who has a gift for working with young people with a learning disability and works so very hard.
Charley – a young lady who has just completed her third course as Senior Crew. Although she has been very good in previous years, this year she has shown a maturity and confidence beyond her years. She has stood up to our hormonal young men and treated them with dignity and respect but also guided them and encouraged them in all their activities as well as their leisure time.
Charlotte – you surprised me the most. Charlotte is a young lady who has never done a Salamander course and has no experience working with young people with Down’s syndrome and that is why I am so surprised. Charlotte is quietly spoken but firm and friendly so they stop what they are doing and make the effort to listen. She is so patient and gives of her time and was another one who helped until the moment she left. She has been an asset to the course.
Abi – your positivity and desire to ensure that everyone is happy and included makes a huge difference. You were Luke’s constant and the reason he would participate with a smile so many times. Thank you.
Phil – your kindly, approachable nature coupled with an aura of strength and confidence enabled even the most diffident to feel confident and bold. You were so supportive, so patient and so kind.
Jules – you are just so great. You never stop smiling. You never stop being a positive force for good. You show respect and kindness and encourage all those around you. You love being there and it shows in everything you do.
Tariq – thank you for your support this week. Thank you for your willingness to do anything that was asked of you.
Looks like it’s Firefighter time now. Jules said in the debrief tonight that the Salamander team feel like family from the moment you walk in on a Monday morning until the moment you leave on Friday. You know I feel exactly the same way. You are a group of people that care so much about each other and not only during work hours. You laugh and joke with each other but can also be serious and thoughtful. Nothing is ever too much trouble but you also feel safe enough that you can get cross or be irritable but still feel supported.
Steve – Zachary now asks to be in your team the moment he knows he is doing Salamander. Your positive support, patience and encouragement coupled with your willingness to be open and honest with them breeds a respect and understanding that makes them feel comfortable and secure. A perfect combination. Thank you.
Sean – a Grandad now. How amazing is that and how wonderful for baby George to have a grandad like you. You are gentle, caring, supportive and just so interested in everything they have to say. You are caring and thoughtful to all us too and make us feel needed and wanted. Thank you.
James – so much fun and so much care wrapped in one. Although you are all so very patient you must be the most when it comes to our young people. Long after I would have given and gone home or banged my head against the wall, you are still there talking confidently and calmly and they listen and respond. Thank you.
Fraser – just fun and laughter, correct? Your epic DVD’s have transformed my boy’s lives and driven me occasionally up the wall!! Your presence ensures no messing and your actions say so different but they listen to you and respond positively. Thank you
Nev – patient, kind and helpful as well as that darker side as you tease and joke. Love it!!
Mark – you care so deeply about them all and it shows in every decision you make every single day. You can be serious, thoughtful and contemplative one minute then laughing with them all the next. You have made Salamander what it is today and ensured that it is a course that is accessible to all but also not diluting the content but approaching it in a different way to ensure success. You tell me that I have helped with information and advice but you know it all already. All I have done really is give reassurance that you are already doing it right. But it is not just about the young people attending the course. You are there for everyone – instructors, support staff and Senior Crew alike. Your approachable, caring nature allows everyone to feel they can speak and be heard.
This course is so very special and I feel honoured to be a part of it. Thank you.
Thank you all for the difference you have made to my life, my family’s and all those that have participated on the courses. xxx
p.s – forgive any mistakes as I have dozed off so many times as I write this but I need to get it out tonight, so apologies x