ON THE GROUND: Lady Hoare Trust

Scheme: To assist children affected by arthritis and severe limb disabilities

Funding: Launched with the aim of raising £150,000 in 1962, the trust is now solely reliant on voluntary donations

Objectives: Provide children and young adults up to the age of 18 with practical, emotional and financial support

It was the shock of seeing the lack of financial and social support for children struck by Thalidomide that prompted a Lord Mayor of London's wife to take action. Back in 1962, Lady Hoare, the wife of Frederick Hoare, set out to provide a support structure for families affected by Thalidomide.

Rounding up well-known celebrities of the era including the late entertainer Judy Garland, Hoare raised £150,000, which was a mammoth amount at the time. Hoare had "unflagging zeal" which inspired others to make contributions of their own. Garland donated her £2,000 fee for appearing at the London Palladium in 1963 to bolster the fund. Politicians paid tribute by awarding Hoare an OBE in 1972. She died of cancer a year later.

Forty years on since its formation, the trust is now overseen by recently appointed chief executive Michael Ryan who came from Westminster-based youth homelessness charity The Cardinal Hume Centre.

"I came from a charity where young people were disowned by their families or abused and that was stark," says Ryan. "So it is good to do the reverse and help physically disabled children and their families."

His decision to move jobs was prompted by the fact that the charity had just completed a major task and Ryan decided not to sign up to another pending four-year project.

Each year the trust's national network of 31 part-time fieldworkers liaise with around 1,200 children, young adults and their families in their own homes. They give advice on matters such as housing benefit and dealing with school bullies.

Now that there are no new cases of Thalidomide, the trust helps families which have children born with limb disabilities, inherited diseases or lost limbs through accidents. Ryan says raising the trust's annual £600,000 turnover is the biggest problem he faces although on the good side he welcomed the Welsh Assembly's latest move to create an all Wales strategy.

He thinks it should be replicated in other countries including England.

Ryan says that despite the difficulties the trust faces, the chance to make a real difference to a young person's life makes it all worthwhile.

"The thing that touches me most is seeing a 15-month-old baby diagnosed with arthritis given the support they need quickly," he says.

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