Coming together in a crisis to provide integral support to hundreds of bereaved Armed Forces children

Scotty’s Little Soldiers lockdown highlights

Over the last 12 weeks, national bereaved Armed Forces children’s charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, has adapted to the new world, altering the way it operates, for both its members and supporters, to ensure the young people it supports gets the care they need in these unprecedented times.

Through a series of virtual events, fundraising incentives and regular communication, Scotty’s Little Soldiers has proceeded to provide its members with continued support and engagement and the reassurance that they are not alone. And these are some of the highlights.

Founded in 2010, Scotty’s was set up by war widow Nikki Scott after her husband, Corporal Lee Scott was killed in Afghanistan the previous year, leaving behind two young children. The charity does lots of things to support its members, including providing access to the very best health and wellbeing care, offering outstanding development opportunities through a range of activity and educational grants, and Scotty’s helps put smiles back on those brave faces by organising events, providing respite breaks, posting them birthday and Christmas presents and remembering the anniversary of their parent’s death.

Usually, at this time of year, the charity would be arranging for the families, all grieving for a loved one, to go on respite breaks and attend special events, but sadly these things aren’t possible at present. In recent weeks, the charity has been using modern technology to arrange exciting virtual events and activities to engage with its members, ensuring them that in uncertain times such as these they are not alone. They’ve also been providing a high volume of wellbeing support to families who are suffering from enhanced anxiety and other problems due to the current health crisis.

Over the last 12 weeks, support for the charity has been phenomenal with both supporters and members going the extra mile to raise money. Through the virtual fundraising platform set up by Scotty’s at the beginning of lockdown, those wishing to raise money have had the opportunity to take part in a variety of challenges or choose their own.

In May, over 43 supporters and beneficiaries took part in the May Marathon challenge, raising over £20,000 across the month. June saw the launch of the inaugural, Tour De Scotty, challenging supporters to cycle either 300 or 600 miles throughout the month. And in July, fundraisers will have the opportunity to create their own challenge with Choose Your Own Challenge.

Many members and their families have already taken on their own challenge to raise money. From completing 10 challenges in 22 days, to climbing a virtual Mount Snowden dressed as R2-D2, everyone has stepped up in support of the charity that means so much to them.

Scotty member, Ava Winter, challenged herself to travel 177 virtual miles from her house in Taunton to Captain Tom’s house in Bedfordshire to deliver him a thank you card. Her mum, Laura, said: “I’ve been overwhelmed by the consistency of support from Scotty’s, whenever Ava sees a Scotty’s sticker come through the door her face lights up. They are always there for us. And it is not just Ava who has benefitted, I have also had the opportunity to meet other families and I am now friends with other mums who are in the same boat as us. I don’t know what we would do without them.”

Keeping members engaged during lockdown has been so important and the charity’s virtual events have provided a great platform to do this.  At the beginning of lockdown, the charity arranged for its members to have a free Disney+ subscription for six months to ease boredom. They organised a series of fun events, including a TikTok competition, set and judged by Britain’s Got Talent Magician, Richard Jones. Members were invited to interview Richard and ask him questions. A ‘Scotty Friday Night Takeaway’ was also set up which included vouchers from Just Eat. And Tuesdays have now been named ‘Takeover Tuesday’ on Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ TikTok account, where members can takeover the channel for a full day.

In addition, the charity has organised a whole host of competitions including a photography competition, logo competition and an art competition. Moreover, Scotty’s has provided members with a pack for completing a lockdown time capsule, and more recently, on Father’s Day, the team sent a graphic to its members featuring ways members could remember their fallen Fathers during lockdown.

For keeping in touch during lockdown, Zoom has been an integral tool, enabling the charity to organise many virtual events. The team at Scotty’s arranged a virtual choir featuring the children singing Jess Glynne’s I’ll be there single, with the hope of lifting spirits throughout lockdown. Through Zoom, top London events company, Sharky and George, who organise the Scotty’s annual Christmas party, hosted a virtual party for the children, including lots of games and activities. And, even TV Presenter Alison Hammond, hosted a quiz for the children through video call.

Emotional and educational support has a been a priority for Scotty’s Little Soldiers. For those on the Scotty Members Council, virtual meetings have taken place, and all parents have received an email from Scotty’s at 5pm every Friday with updates. There have been weekly support groups for parents, with coffee mornings and ‘Grab a Glass’ evenings hosted by Scotty’s Head of Support Bev Townsend. Bev has been on hand throughout the crisis to offer support to members and their parents, with a large increase in support cases over the past few months. Additionally, Emma Peppercorn, the charity’s Strides and Springboard Programme Co-Ordinator, has recently joined the team and is helping with the educational needs of members.

For supporters, communications have included ‘Weekly SitReps’ regular video updates, usually hosted by founder, Nikki Scott, but sometimes have included guests.  Supporters receive an email from Scotty’s at 5pm every Friday with updates on the charity. The charity’s apparel collection, Fear Naught, has also stepped up to the bar, raising over £1,000 for Scotty’s through the sale of a special limited-edition t-shirt with a rainbow emblem, with 100% of profits from the t-shirt going to the charity. The charity also recently launched its innovative Overwatch project. Overwatch is an opportunity for supporters to become truly involved in the long-term support provided to bereaved Service children and was launched by former UK Special Forces legend and TV star, Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham.

“The last 12 weeks have been a challenge, but I’m delighted with how the team have all pulled together” explained Nikki, “This couldn’t have happened without our dedicated team and our supporters, helping us through. It’s been a challenging time for everyone, our members, supporters, and team, but by working together we’ve been able to support our families by doing some really great things. Thanks to everyone involved and everyone who has taken part. At strange times like these, it was vital for us to adapt, and frequent communication with regular updates has been particularly important for us.”

Or to sign up for your own virtual fundraising event or challenge, go to: vf.scottyslittlesoldiers.co.uk

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