12-year-old disabled child saves activity centre

In the natural beauty of the Lake District, the Calvert Trust offers inclusive outdoor activities, accessible for all. But when declining funding threatened to shut down the charity as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of its regulars – 12-year-old Oliver Voysey – stepped up to save it. 

For his 13th birthday, Oliver had asked his parents for a puppy. When they told him that wasn’t an option, he revealed his second choice: to save the Calvert Trust and give back to the charity that had helped him build so much confidence over years.

“I said, ‘They’ve lost £1 million in income, you know, I just don’t think we can do it,’” says Oliver’s mum, Sarah. “But then he said to me what I’ve always told him: ‘Nothing is impossible. You try it. And only then you can say if it succeeded or not.’”

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Oliver and his parents realised they wouldn’t be able to raise the money by themselves. So they spread the word, recruiting friends, family and acquaintances to support them in a mass fundraising drive. “At first we just wanted to include friends, but it ended up spiralling to over 3,000 people joining Oliver’s Calvert Army,” says Sarah. 

In total, Oliver and his fundraising army managed to collect nearly a quarter of a million via their Gofundme campaign. The centre itself raised the remaining funds needed to reopen in June 2021, when the little boy started the opening ceremony by speeding down a zip wire into a ribbon.

Outdoor adventures for all

As a two-day-old baby, Oliver had a severe brain injury which caused him sight loss, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and learning difficulties. While he was still tiny, his outdoorsy parents loved taking him camping and hiking. But as he grew older, it became increasingly difficult to transport him and all the necessary equipment.

Only a few years ago, his parents discovered the Calvert Trust along with all the opportunities it opened for Oliver to build his confidence and get his family back into nature together again.

With the help of specialist equipment and the adaptability of the staff, the family go canoeing, abseiling, rock climbing, cycling, ghyll scrambling, sailing, assault courses, horse riding and fell climbing. 

“Nothing is impossible at Calvert,” says Sarah. “The psychological impact this has had has been amazing. We’ve seen Oliver go from strength to strength and he lives by the motto ‘never say I can’t’.”

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These trips into nature offer benefits to the family as a whole. “The centre helps you build memories together as a family,” explains Sarah. “So if your child wants to go canoeing, everybody can and it’s a really unifying, special thing that most families will take for granted.

“It’s been life-changing for Oliver as well as his sister, who has no disabilities and has met others who she can talk to about what it’s like to be the sibling of a child with profound disabilities, and that’s very important.”

Doing your bit

If you want to help the Calvert Trust continue providing these incredible holidays for disabled children, Oliver’s fundraiser remains open to donations. 

He and his family are also calling for people to consider donating to the Calvert Trust in their wills, using their legacies to keep the centre open in the long term and offer more children like Oliver the incredible holiday experience that every child deserves.

Demonstrating the point, a recent £100,000 legacy to the trust paid for essential refurbishment, while other legacies have played a vital role in maintaining Calvert’s unique facilities and specially adapted equipment. “For Calvert, every legacy, large or small, makes a massive difference and translates into joyous, life-changing experiences for thousands of disabled children and adults,” adds Sarah.

To set up a monthly or one-off donation to the charity, visit their donations page or get in touch to find out other ways to support via enquiries@calvertlakes.org.uk.