Little Heroes City Fest 2022

Little Heroes ASD celebrate their City Fest at Wellbeing At Garon Park

On a gloriously sunny day in August, Wellbeing at Garon Park were delighted to welcome
their good friends, Little Heroes ASD, to the park, providing a venue for them to host their
City Fest celebration.

Little Heroes ASD are an amazing local charity who work tirelessly to provide support to
families of children with autism.

Ever since coming out of lockdown, Little Heroes have wanted to do something on a larger
scale where they could bring families of children with autism together in a safe and
understanding space. Social isolation can be a challenge at the best of times, however,
for children with autism and additional needs the loss of daily routines, retracting from
socialisation and activities during lockdown has had a huge impact and they wanted to
arrange something for families to enjoy together in an environment where they could all relax
without being judged

For the past 3 summers Little Heroes have used Wellbeing At Garon Park as a venue, as
they do not have their own outside space. They have found it the perfect place for their
families to meet, providing them with lots of outdoor space, its own play park and plenty of
parking. Over time they have slowly built up the numbers who attend their themed summer
picnics, sometimes with as many as 80 attending each week. As these have always proved
so popular, they decided they would like to arrange a one-off event for around 150 people,
so when they heard about the opportunity for City Celebration Funding from the Community
Investment fund, they saw it as a perfect opportunity to celebrate Southend becoming a City
with Little Heroes families.

Working with the team at Wellbeing At Garon Park, the staff at Little Heroes set to work
planning a celebration event.

Kim Drake, Charity Coordinator at Little Heroes said ‘As much as we are regular visitors to
Wellbeing at Garon Park, being busy at the picnics and supporting the Little Heroes families,
we do not always see what else is happening and available at Garons. It has been wonderful
to see the changes over time and every time we go for a walk around, we always notice
something new. Communication is key and we get so much from the face-to-face catch ups
we have with Kay and the team and through their experience and contacts, what we initially
thought of as far out ideas actually turned into reality and were not a problem.
‘We did lots of preparation leading up to the big day as we wanted this to be as stress free
for families as possible, therefore we arranged for food, drink, and plenty of entertainment.
We aimed for 150 guests but once shared the details with families, interest was quickly
registered, and we could have easily been able to fill double the spaces. However, just
because Garons can accommodate more people, it was always a priority to consider the
needs of our families. Space is so important because not all children with autism can cope
with being in crowded noisy areas, so by having space between activities and a number of
chill out zones, this meant families could distance themselves from others if needed.
Another huge advantage of using Wellbeing at Garon Park is familiarity, with established
areas which the families are used to, such as the covered gazebos/seating areas, outdoor
gym equipment around the path providing familiar features. As we are regular visitors to the
site for our picnics, we were able to chat with the Garon Park team on an ongoing basis to
ensure everything we planned was ok and any queries from either side could be addressed
quickly. This took a lot of pressure off of us, for which we are grateful.’

On the day it was fantastic to see a real community atmosphere with the teams from Little
Heroes, Wellbeing At Garon Park and outside suppliers all working together to ensure the
site was safe and set up properly before the families arrived. The volunteers from The Garon
Park Shed also stepped in and saved the day helping to set up the registration area and
knocking up a fantastic feedback box, which children absolutely loved.

Many of the activities were a complete surprise to the families as the organisers wanted to
keep it under wraps until they arrived, and it was fantastic seeing the children and families
having such a fantastic day. There were inflatables, traditional games, an adorable therapy
dog and pony as well as pony rides, football with SUCET, police car, balloon modelling,
face painting, with Crazy Ryan providing entertainment all day. There was also a much-
needed chill out tent courtesy of Lodge Pod Parties, which provided a fantastic tranquil space for families to be able to take
time out from the excitement of what was going on outside. There were also freshly baked
pizzas and mocktails for everyone which were absolutely delicious!

The glorious weather helped the families to chill and enjoy their time at the event, which for
many families attending, just would not have been possible at funday in a mainstream

As Kim said, ‘being surrounded by people that understand and who just get it really does
make all the difference.’

The day was a huge success, plenty to celebrate and fun was had by everyone.  Feedback
was amazing and the most common comment was ‘how can you better this for next year!’.
Kin said ‘We have had great fun looking through the photos from the day, which were kindly
taken by a fantastic professional photographer – Hannah at Little Buzz Photography. When you are so busy running the event,
you do not always see everything that is happening, so it is wonderful to be able to look over
the moments captured.’

‘We are so thankful to all our staff, volunteers, and everyone at Wellbeing at Garon Park for
making it happen. Thank you also goes to the Community Investment Board for awarding us
the funding from Southend City Celebration fund and who knows what is next? As we always
say at Little Heroes ASD Support Group “Never Say Never!

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