1971 The Birth of KIDS
The story of KIDS began in Ireland in the early 1960s when teacher John Mulcahy grew concerned about the development of a disabled child in one of his classes.
John wanted to improve communication with a little boy and sought guidance from his mother – a two-way process which remained with Mulcahy long after he relocated to England in 1962. He was determined to use that experience to help other parents with disabled children but the question remained: where would be the best place to start?
His idea, at first no more than an educated hunch, was that providing holidays for disabled children could have an immediate and positive impact, not just on the lives of the children but also on their families. It was an ambitious leap in imagination compared to most contemporary thinking on caring for disabled people, which was still in its infancy in the UK. However, it had the advantage of being both achievable and affordable.
The idea of a holiday centre was well-received by early donors. Equally important was the widespread acceptance of the ethos behind it. One significant figure drawn to the fledgling KIDS was its first patron, Lord Compton, the Marquess of Northampton. Lord Compton not only helped with introductions to other potential donors and provided a generous £40,000 himself but also had one extra, and much-needed, gift: a 2.5 acre piece of land located in an orchard on his estate in Easton Maudit, a small village in rural Northamptonshire in 1973.
Following a year of fundraising, the land was used for KIDS' first purpose-built holiday centre: a £75k ground-floor building incorporating playrooms, a living room and dining room and ground-floor accommodation for 12 children and staff. In 1973, the KIDS Holiday Centre was officially opened by Prince and Princess Michael of Kent.
Within three years it was becoming clear that the charity was outgrowing Easton Maudit both logistically and in the range of services it was now capable of providing. As Easton Maudit had always been a tough location to get to, it was clear that the next logical step was to provide permanent, local family centres. There was also a feeling that although two week breaks had proven their value, being able to offer a closer, year-round relationship with families would provide effective and tangible support whenever it was needed.
In 1976 the charity relocated to its new Family Centre in Pond St, London, opposite the Royal Free Hospital. However, Easton Maudit remains a key milestone in KIDS' history.
Communication is still a key focus for KIDS' work in 2011. You can find out more about our work in the Hello campaign with the Communication Trust on our Campaiging Partners page.