It’s not often a top football star turns up on your doorstep and reveals you’re being whisked away for a super track day – but that’s exactly what happened to a Barnardo’s young carer, courtesy of Red Letter Days.
During half-term the online experience retailer, which offers unforgettable gifts, partnered with children’s charity Barnardo’s to raise awareness of the nation’s unsung heroes with some extra special early Christmas magic.
Sixteen-year-old Ian Nelson-Harding, who is supported by Barnardo’s Young Carers’ Service in Ilford, East London, cares for his mum, Drucilla, and his younger brother who has autism. Life has been difficult for the family in the past few years after Drucilla suffered a posterior circulation stroke in 2018, which impacted her ability to care for Ian, and his brother. Since then, with a loving caring attitude, and without hesitation, Ian has taken on the large responsibility of caring for the family, juggling a large number of daily household chores with a busy school schedule.
As part of its Unsung Heroes campaign, Red Letter Days enlisted the help of former Manchester United captain and TV pundit Patrice Evra to give Ian, who is a huge Man United fan, the shock of his life. Not only was he surprised to see Patrice at his door, he was also lost for words when he’d been told that he was being whisked away for a super track day – with his footballing hero.
Whizzing round the corners of Brand’s Hatch in a Ferrari and Lamborghini, with Patrice cheering him on, was not on Ian’s to-do list for the recent half-term, but Red Letter Days wanted to make this happen for an unsung hero that truly deserved it.
The surprises didn’t stop there, with Red Letter Days calling on restaurant partner Searcy’s at The Gherkin to provide a warming meal delivered to the family home for them all to enjoy after a busy day.
As a young carer, Ian helps his mum with cooking meals, washing, cleaning and supporting his younger brother. Barnardo’s Wellbeing Hub, run in partnership with Redbridge Council, has enabled the family to receive wraparound support. Attending the Young Carers’ Service at the hub in Ilford is part of Ian’s weekly routine. The hub provides a vital space where young carers can get support, talk through any problems they are experiencing and make friends. Along with a Friday youth group, where Ian is able to take part in fun activities and games, he is also able to benefit from a weekly homework club at the hub that allows him to focus on his schoolwork.
Although the family are now able to benefit from partial support from carers, Ian continues to fill in the gaps to support his mum with her recovery and care for his brother’s needs which can be challenging at times. Ian has become more aware of the role of young carers and recently wrote an awareness speech for one of his English assignments on the subject.
“It was great to meet Patrice Evra. I had the most amazing day with him on the race track. It’s something I’ll never forget. Coming to Barnardo’s has made such a big difference to me. The staff are really supportive and they have encouraged me to speak more openly about the challenges of being a young carer.”
Speaking on his day with Ian, Patrice Evra, former Manchester United footballer, said:
“This year we’ve heard many inspirational stories of how people have helped others, so when I was invited by Red Letter Days to help celebrate one of the nation’s unsung heroes, I didn’t think twice.
“It was so great to be part of Ian’s memorable day and surprise him with a supercar racetrack experience, what he does for his family all year round is truly inspiring and he deserved every minute!”
It is estimated that 800,000 secondary school children in England are currently registered as a carer for a parent or parents, many of whom will have to make their own dinner and wrap their own presents this Christmas. Barnardo’s is seeking to raise awareness of the plight of young carers in the run-up to Christmas. With figures showing children in Black and Asian communities are 1.5 times more likely to be young carers, the charity has recently launched Boloh, a new specialist helpline for Black and Asian families who have been disproportionally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lynn Gradwell, Director for Barnardo’s London, said:
“We are so grateful to Red Letter Days for providing the most incredible half-term experience to our young carer, Ian.
“To spend an exciting day whizzing around a race car track and being cheered on by a football star is something which few of us will ever experience, and I would like to thank Red Letter Days, our colleagues in fundraising and all of our staff at the Wellbeing Hub for making this happen.”
Dan Mountain, CEO at Red Letter Days said:
“It was fantastic to be able to treat Ian and his family to a special day the best way we know how with memorable and once in a lifetime experiences. We want to raise awareness of just how many young carers there are throughout the UK and the amazing work they do, day in day out.
“We’re delighted to partner with such an incredible charity like Barnardo‘s and support their Kidsmas campaign which helps to raise funds and give support for children who need it the most, all over the UK.”
Alongside gifting a number of experience days, Red Letter Days have donated a charitable sum to Barnardo’s to support the fantastic work that the charity does, with community initiatives like those that support Ian and his family.
By raising money this festive season for Barnardo’s Kidsmas campaign you can make a life-changing difference to a vulnerable child – giving them the expert support, kindness and care they need to have a happier Christmas, and a brighter future.
For more details on the campaign please visit: https://www.redletterdays.co.uk/making-memories
You can donate to Barnardo’s by visiting: https://kidsmas.barnardos.org.uk