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.”

 

This story was originally published on the Scotty’s Little Soldiers Website.

Bereaved Military Families United at FAB Camps with Support from Scotty’s Little Soldiers

This was our first FAB camp. It really opened our eyes and helped us. It was great to be around other families that really understood how we feel.”
“Truly life changing experience. We will not feel alone again. We came away with a forever family not just friends. My boys felt normal again.”
Just some of the amazing responses from the 30 military families who were supported by Scotty’s Little Soldiers and Friends of FAB (Families’ Activity Breaks) at this year’s FAB Camps.

Working together with Scotty’s Little Soldiers

This summer, FAB teamed up with Scotty’s Little Soldiers to provide specialist bereavement support to FAB as part of our 2021 camp programme.

Scotty’s team: Lorna, Mark and Charlie

Scotty’s Little Soldiers supports children and young people (0 to 25 years) who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.  Scotty’s services include guidance to parents and carers, access to professional child bereavement support, personal education and learning assistance (including grants) and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.

30 bereaved military families attended this year’s FAB camps, which will took place in Coverack in Cornwall and in the Lake District at the end of July and early August. The families enjoyed an adventurous holiday experience within a safe and nurturing environment, encouraging self-confidence, resilience and peer support, whilst having fun. FAB provides an opportunity for the military community to offer practical and emotional support to bereaved families in times of need, and Scotty’s were on hand to provide specialist bereavement support before, during and after the camps.

Karen Tait MBE (FAB) said: “I am delighted that Scotty’s Little Soldiers have agreed to support FAB this year and moving forward. The partnership makes so much sense, a shared end goal of supporting OUR families. I emphasise the OUR because once you are part of the military family you always will be and we are determined to work together to ensure they are all cared for through their bereavement journey.”

FAB mentor, member and volunteer

Lorna Vyse from Scotty’s Little Soldiers, who provided specialist bereavement support alongside her colleagues Mark Hawkins and Charlie Houlder-Moat, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working with the team at FAB. We share a common goal to support bereaved Forces families, so to work with them feels like a perfect partnership”. 

Lorna continued: “24 of the 30 families attending this summer’s FAB camps are already known to Scotty’s, so this is an amazing opportunity to not only provide our own members and their families with additional support, but also to help other military families who have experienced the death of a loved one.”

Nikki Scott, Founder of Scotty’s Little Soldiers, added: “It’s incredible when the military community comes together to ensure our fallen heroes and their families aren’t forgotten. I’ve always admired the work FAB does and I’m so glad Scotty’s are able to help their team ensure that families attending their camps get the specialist bereavement support they need.”

The show must go on (even with Covid restrictions)!

All families have have received a response on their application. We were inundated this year and it breaks our hearts to not be able to offer a place to everyone.  If anyone drops out, we will of course offer those places to families on our reserve list.

With the recent news that Covid guidelines won’t be relaxed on 21 June as planned, our Plan B has been dusted off, reviewed and updated.  If restrictions remain as they are today (15 June) we are confident that we will be able to go ahead with camps. This may of course mean adjustments to the way we have traditionally run camps, but we’re sure that this is something we can overcome, while ensuring that we operate legally and safely.

As government guidance is updated/published we will confirm and finalise our plans and share them with all families/volunteers before the start of each camp. If you have any concerns in the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We’ve booked our camps for 2021!

Here’s something for you to look forward to… we’re delighted to announce that we have booked our camps for 2021.  All subject to changes (of course, we’re used to that now) but pencil them into your diaries now and we’ll let you know when we open up applications for families and volunteers.

We’re returning to Coverack in Cornwall from 24 July and Newlands in the Lake District from 31 July – See the Camps Page for more details on each of the camps.

We hope you’re as excited as we are.

The FAB Committee

 

Hope for 2021

We’re keen to put 2020 behind us and make 2021 a better year for everyone.  We’re working hard behind the scenes to put plans in place for this year. We will of course let you know as soon as we’ve got any news and are we’re excited about the potential of seeing everyone again.  Fingers crossed!

This summer’s FAB Camps have been cancelled

Due to the uncertainty over the Covid-19 virus, it is with great sadness that we have decided to cancel this summer’s FAB Camps.  This was not an easy decision and all possible options were explored by the committee.  The safety of FAB families and volunteers is paramount and the only safe option was for us to cancel.

We would like to thank all of our supporters over the years and we hope to be able to come back to you later in the year with some news on some really exciting new events.  Look our for social media posts throughout the year as we update you on our plans.

We’re thinking of you all through this time – please do not hesitate to reach out should you need it.

With all of our best wishes, the FAB Committee.