How a day in denim can make a major difference to young lives

Jack Mawer, 13, walks his dog along the canal in Mytholmroyd with mother Mandy.
Jack Mawer, 13, walks his dog along the canal in Mytholmroyd with mother Mandy.

The bond between Jack Mawer and his mum Mandy from Halifax is clear to see. Now they are raising awareness of Jeans for Genes Day.

In many ways Jack Mawer is like any other young teenage boy. He loves his gadgets, particularly his iPad and enjoy trampolining, swimming and going to a youth club.

Jack Mawer, 13, walks his dog along the canal in Mytholmroyd with mother Mandy.

Jack Mawer, 13, walks his dog along the canal in Mytholmroyd with mother Mandy.

But Jack has trouble communicating more than a couple of words and the youth club he attends is a special one for young people with Down Syndrome.

Mandy knew from the moment Jack was born that something was wrong.

“When Jack was born he was floppy and doctors said he needed blood tests for Down Syndrome. I was scared and devastated – I’m a single mum and although I’m a nurse myself and worked in the hospital, I was on my own when we had this conversation,” recalls Mandy now 52.

Mandy was told quickly that her son had Down syndrome.

“As a nurse, I’d seen a few cases, and I had a friend who had a child with Down syndrome, so I knew a bit about it,” she says. “But I didn’t really know what it would mean for me and Jack.”

Mandy was able to take Jack home with her to Mytholmroyd as he didn’t have any physical medical health problems.

But as her little boy grew up, Mandy began to feel isolated.

“I have no partner and no family nearby, so it’s always been difficult, particularly with childcare. Jack goes to a great special school, but he doesn’t communicate well. At 14, he’s just about putting two words together.

“He and I have a very strong bond so I always know what he’s trying to tell me, but it’s difficult with other kids. He doesn’t know how to be friends with them, which makes before-school clubs challenging as he keeps himself to himself.”

Despite his communication problems, Jack is a happy boy who loves trampolining, swimming, dog walking and techie gadgets and it is hard to get him off his beloved iPad.

“He’s active and will have a go at anything,” says Mandy. “Every Friday, he goes to a youth club for young people with Down Syndrome and every other Sunday, he goes out with other kids to give me respite but I don’t look at it like that. It is a chance to meet other parents and for him to socialise with children his own age.”

The Youth Club receives funds from the charity Jeans for Genes Day which raises money for Genetic Disorders UK, the charity that aims to change the world for children with genetic disorders.

Without the Youth Club, Mandy would get no respite as she works full time as a nurse.

“Jack loves going to his youth club – the WisH club (standing for ‘weekend is here ‘club). He gets great benefits from it – some independence, an opportunity to build friendships outside of school and practical skills like baking and money skills.

“Meanwhile, whilst he is there, I can do some shopping, and in the summer, when the nights are lighter, I go for a walk in the countryside to recharge my batteries.”

The WiSH club in Bingley is run by Bradford Down Syndrome Training & Support Service Ltd, a charity run for and by the parents and carers of children with Down Syndrome

Jack is improving at school and recently received a literacy award.

When he’s 19, he will go to a residential school and learn more independence skills.

“When Jack was born, the midwife said to me, ‘Not all children are born to be brain surgeons’, ”says Mandy. “It was really helpful because it reminded me each child is different, and it’s always stayed with me. I know Jack relies on me, but I rely on him as much and I wouldn’t be without him.”

Jeans for Genes Day raises money for Genetic Disorders UK, the charity that aims to change the world for children with genetic disorders. Funds raised will go to the vital care and support they need.

Jeans for Genes Day is tomorrow (Friday September 22) and everyone is invited to wear their jeans to work or school in return for a donation. Sign up for your free fundraising pack at www.jeansforgenesday.org

The Down Syndrome Training & Support Service Ltd is a Jeans for Genes Day 2017 grant charity. They will receive £4752 from funds raised on Jeans for Genes Day, which will go towards a club for 11 - 18 year olds with games area, kitchen and tuck shop.