Strode Park Foundation’s ethos and experience caring for people with disabilities extend back to 1946 when the charity was established in Sevenoaks by our Founder and first Chairman, Basil Jones.
There have obviously been many changes since then, one of which being the location when the charity purchased Strode Park House in Herne. This eventually led to a name change in 1980 to ‘Strode Park Foundation’, the previous name being ‘Cripplecraft’ (an acceptable name back then if not so much these days).
The main purpose of starting a new disability charity was to continue the care of a close community of young adults with physical disabilities who had been brought together during the war years. Basil Jones, together with a small group of friends, decided to take up the challenge of providing them with a permanent home, as well as offering them a meaningful occupation, opportunity, and independence.
Back in the 1940s, it had been noticed by those responsible for their care and well-being that the residents really needed something to occupy them mentally and physically so it was decided that it would be a great idea to engage them in toy making and thus the charity got its name and the first Cripplecraft toy was made.
With plenty of practice and perseverance, soft toys of many kinds were produced along with a variety of other handicrafts including needlework, basketry, woodwork, cane chair repairing and rug making. Not a commercialised factory, however, whilst the items were indeed sold in order to buy further materials and pay for supervision, the main object was to keep the residents occupied mentally and manually and to establish a life comparable in as many ways as possible to those without disabilities.
Unfortunately, we do not have many examples of these lovely soft toys in our possession but have been lucky to own a small teddy bear and more recently, have kindly been donated a little dog by the Heacham Youth and Community Trust (which had found its way to their charity shop in Norfolk!). They didn’t know who donated this little dog or the reason it was decided that he should reside with them, however, it was obvious from first sight that he had clearly been really well loved and had given a lot of joy throughout his long life.
On investigation, they discovered his origins and were kind enough to get in touch with us and make sure he could finish his journey back at the place where he was created. We recently ran a little social media competition where the public got to choose their names and the bear has since been named ‘Basil’ (after the charity founder) and the dog ‘Fizz’.
Whilst the toys are sadly no longer in production, the spirit and determination of those early days have been strongly maintained in advancing the range of services we have today and in becoming one of the largest resource centres for people with disabilities in the South East.
We have always firmly believed that everyone should have the opportunity to achieve their full potential and live life the way that they choose and this has been evident from the very beginning, right up until the present day.
(Written by Christina Jones, Fundraiser at Strode Park Foundation)