Gemma – Dorset Children’s Foundation

Meet the Hidden Heroes

As it’s National Storytelling week, we wanted to share a special R2R break and story with you all. Towards the end of last year, Gemma was nominated by our good friends and brilliant charity, The Dorset Children’s Foundation.

Gemma’s son, Paddy, is non-verbal and has epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Together, they form Paddy’s Purpose, a campaign supported by The DCF. Paddy’s Purpose is a free workshop for schools and children’s groups to spread the word about disability and promote a more inclusive society by communicating it to children.

A special Hidden Hero deserves a special break, and we were delighted to send Gemma and her husband off for a well-earned break at The Grove – London’s Country Estate. Michael, Byron and team have been huge supporters of R2R for some time so it was fantastic to finally be able to send them their first Hidden Hero. Needless to say, it was a break to remember! This is her story.

“I am a busy Mum of 3, my 12yr old son Patrick has severe disabilities and uncontrolled epilepsy and because of his high care needs I am unable to work. I started my volunteer work 2 years ago when I saw the need for disability awareness education amongst young children who would often stare or shy away from Patrick when we were out and about.  The Dorset Children’s Foundation offered to support my work and helped me develop a full workshop and for the past year myself and Patrick have worked with nearly 2000 local primary aged children to educate them and to break down barriers between the able and disabled.  On top of being a full time Mum and carer this can be very physically and emotionally draining but I love that we are able to make a difference.”


“It all started a couple of years ago when I was asked by a friend if I’d mind taking Paddy along to visit a group of Beavers to talk to them about disabilities for their disability awareness badge. I jumped at the chance and went along with lots of Paddy’s equipment and pictures and had a great night. The feedback I received from parents and leaders following the session was so positive and encouraging. Word got around to other beaver troupes and before long we were visiting them all.

Last year I was approached by the wonderful team at The Dorset Children’s Foundation who were keen to do more to help local disabled children and were looking into the idea of going into schools to teach disability awareness. They had heard about my project and, after a brief consultation, we agreed to join forces and Paddy’s Purpose was born. With the backing of the DCF who are funding the project I am now able to bring Paddy’s Purpose to local schools. I have developed interactive workshops that explore all aspects of Paddy’s life with disabilities. Paddy himself attends the workshops where possible and the children are encouraged to engage with him as they learn how he communicates and how, with a little help from different equipment, he is really just like them.”

Photo Credit: Bournemouth Echo.

The workshops help to break down barriers between the able and the differently-abled. The children who attend gain an understanding and acceptance of people that may be very different to them and, buzzing from the experience, they filter that knowledge back to their families and the message is spread.

As we slowly but surely move towards a more inclusive society it is more important than ever to educate and end the taboo surrounding disabilities and severe disabilities in particular.”


“Back in November I was very fortunate enough to be nominated for a ‘Room to Reward’ by my colleagues at The Dorset Children’s Foundation. I was restricted to dates as I had to arrange care for Paddy.  Because of this I left it to the Room to Reward team to find a hotel that could accommodate me and my partner at short notice and was relieved and excited when I was given the news that The Grove in Hertfordshire had a room available for us. 

From the moment the booking was confirmed the hotel were in contact to make final arrangements for our stay.  They made advance dinner reservations and offered us late check-out.  The Rooms Division Manager, after learning that I had to drop off my son at a children’s hospice for respite on the way, then came back to me offering us free meals throughout our 2-night break which was incredible and so generous.

When we arrived at the hotel, the General Manager was there to greet us and both myself and my partner were treated like royalty from the moment we approached the doors. We were taken to our suite which had been prepared beautifully, complete with complimentary Prosecco and chocolates. 

Having never stayed at such a luxury hotel I felt a little nervous that I might feel out of place in such opulent surroundings, but I was quickly put at ease by the warm welcome we received from all of the staff around the hotel and, although the staff had been made aware that we were staying for free, at no point were we treated any differently to any of the paying guests and we felt thoroughly spoilt and special for the duration of our stay.”


Byron Fiddler, Rooms Division Manager: “The work that Gemma does is truly inspirational and it was important to us that we recognised this and said thank you.  We delighted in planning a relaxing and rewarding 2-night break, with some surprises along the way. 

The Grove is proud to be a partner hotel with Room to Reward. As with any hotel we have rooms that are not always sold, so Room to Reward is a fabulous initiative where we can put those rooms to good use.”

Community is very important to us and this is a way that we can help recognise and celebrate all the wonderful hidden heroes out there that work tirelessly on the behalf of others.


“I cannot thank everyone enough, from the team at Room to Reward to all the hotel staff at The Grove, for giving myself and my partner the opportunity to take some time out from our busy lives and just ‘switch off’ for a few days. Being able to take a break from everyday life is something I rarely get the opportunity to do. I came away feeling relaxed but energised and full of ideas for the charity. it’s amazing what a few days ‘away from it all’ can do! 

I don’t volunteer for reward, making a difference is reward enough but to receive recognition and the reward of this amazing break honestly was amazing and I am truly grateful.

When you have a child with a limited life expectancy you realise that life is about making memories and experiencing all that life has to offer.

I still feel overwhelmed as I write this and think back to our experience.

To everyone who was involved and helped make this happen I once again say ‘Thank You’. “

R2R would like to thank Gemma for sharing her inspirational story with us, The Dorset Children’s Foundation for the nomination and The Grove – particularly Byron and GM Michael Helling – for your wonderful support.

Find out more about the work of the DCF here.

Find out more about breaks, events, golf and more at The Grove here.

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