Bereaved military sisters enjoy a well-deserved FAB week of fun!
For sisters Molly (17), Emily (11) and Isabelle (nine) a break away courtesy of Families’ Activity Breaks (FAB) and with support from bereaved children’s military charity, Scotty’s Little Soldiers, was just what they needed.
The summer for most children is a time of excitement, but for Molly, Emily and Isabelle Reynolds, the summer is a time of heartache.
In July 2018 the girls were told that their dad, Sergeant Antony Reynolds, who served for 20 years in the Army and completed three tours of Afghanistan, had taken his own life, aged 41, after struggling with his mental health. They were 14, seven and five years old.
The anniversary of their dad’s death this year has been even harder for the girls, as the news around the developments in Afghanistan has been a constant reminder of the sacrifices their dad and others like him made, and ultimately the toll it took on his mental health. The opportunity to attend a FAB Camp was just what they needed.
FAB organises Families’ Activity Breaks for families who have experienced the death of a loved one who served in the British Armed Forces. Families are eligible if a child is aged up to 18 years old. The FAB camps have been running since 2009 and offer an adventure for all the family and a welcome break to meet and socialise with others who have experienced a similar bereavement.
This year, for the first time, Scotty’s Little Soldiers teamed up with FAB and provided specialist bereavement support as part of FAB’s 2021 camp programme.
Having recently returned from FAB Camp in the Lake District, Molly, Emily and Isabelle’s mum, Sarah Ross, discusses just how much the holiday meant to her girls and how Scotty’s has been there for them over the last few years.
“The FAB holiday was just the perfect setting for the girls to enjoy being themselves without worrying about whether anyone would ask them questions about their dad. Because they were with other Scotty members, they knew that everyone on the holiday knew exactly what they were going through, which meant they were able to relax and enjoy themselves a lot more.”
Sarah and her girls were just one of 30 bereaved Forces families that attended this year’s camps, which took place in Coverack in Cornwall and Newlands in the Lake District.
Families that attended were able to enjoy an adventurous holiday experience, encouraging self-confidence, resilience and peer support, whilst having fun. Activities included kayaking, archery, high ropes, climbing, canoeing, quarry jumping and mountain walks. The team from Scotty’s also organised bereavement activities and gave them an opportunity to talk about and remember their loved one, in a safe and nurturing environment.
Sarah said: “We’ve been on a FAB Camp before, but this year’s was different as the girls were with other Scotty members which made it extra special for them. The activities were all designed to push them out of their comfort zone, no matter what age, with the idea being that they had to help and support one another. Something my girls really enjoyed.”
One of the most exciting activities for the Reynold sisters was Ghyll Scrambling, which also coincided with Isabelle’s ninth birthday.
Sarah said: “The girls absolutely loved the Ghyll Scrambling, and Isabelle loved the fact it was on her birthday. It’s not something they’ve ever done before and would never have done without this opportunity. The children all worked so well together. They supported one another and helped each other navigate the challenges that they were presented with.”
One activity that Molly, Emily and Isabelle found especially valuable was a Remembrance campfire called FAB Remembers. The event was designed to bring the families together and give members the opportunity to share memories of their parent if they wish.
Sarah said: “The Remembrance campfire was such an important part of the camp, and something we’d never really taken part in before. The girls were a little unsure at first, and Emily initially said she didn’t want to go. But later that evening she decided to come along. She arrived hand in hand with another Scotty member she’d met during the camp.
“It really was a powerful evening, you didn’t feel pressured to talk if you didn’t want to, but if you did, you knew you were amongst people who knew exactly what you were going through. Although a lot of the children had never met before, they instantly felt like they were chatting to family. They were all so supportive of one another. Each child knew what the other was going through and they could just be themselves.”
Molly, Emily and Isabelle joined Scotty’s Little Soldiers in 2018, shortly after their dad’s death, and the charity has been by their side ever since. Sarah said: “When I came across Scotty’s Little Soldiers, I wasn’t sure whether my children were entitled to the same level of support as families of people killed in action. However, I soon realised that every bereaved Forces child, no matter what the cause was of their parent’s death, is important to Scotty’s.
“I can’t explain how much of a difference Scotty’s has made to the girls. They have made so many new friends through the experiences provided by Scotty’s and I’m so grateful to them for turning something so horrible in their lives into something so positive. The girls have all found dealing with Antony’s death difficult at different times in their lives, but Scotty’s has always been there to help. It’s like having a comfort blanket around the children, with a group of people who have always got your back. Without the security blanket of Scotty’s behind them, they wouldn’t have had the confidence to be so resilient, and I’ll be forever grateful.”