Pride of Dorset

Emily Sutton by Emily Sutton Additional Needs

Emily Sutton

Emily Sutton

I was launched into the world of special needs on New Year's Eve 2012, on the birth of my son, Jenson. He is fabulous, sprightly and loving, and ha...

Last night many a tear was shed as we sat avidly in front of our TVs and watched the screening of the Pride of Britain Awards 2018.

A few months ago, myself and some friends of mine, all parents of disabled children, came together in force to nominate our own true hero, for the category of Fundraiser of the Year.

Below you can read my nomination to ITV that contributed towards this fine lady being shortlisted for this prestigious award.

We are all incredibly proud to be able to call you a friend; well done Patsy, you are a true winner in our eyes.

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Let me tell you a short story.  There were two ladies sat in the fundraising office of The Dorset Children’s Foundation, when the phone rang.

The first lady picked up the phone, to hear the fantastic news that a local company would be donating a large sum of money to fund the purchase of a wheelchair for a local disabled boy.

She came off the phone, and with tears in her eyes she relayed the news to her friend.

The friend, being equally as thrilled, asked “well, aren’t you going to call the family to tell them the good news?”  to which the first lady replied, “no, you can do it”.

You see, this lady that I speak of, she seeks no thrills or glory.  Her motivation for fundraising for sick and disabled children comes from her soul, and is driven by nothing other than love and kindness.

She is no glory-hunter; in fact, she shies away from any public recognition, any reward or praise.

She has a very special heart.  Her name is Patsy.

Patsy is known by, and loved by, just about anyone who is a parent or carer of a disabled or sick child in Dorset.  This lady is the very definition of what makes an exceptional fundraiser.

Patsy has a huge heart, deep pockets, open arms and a selfless soul.

When it comes to her passion, grit, selflessness and determination, she would challenge the likes of Gandhi and Mother Theresa.

You could offer Patsy all the riches in the world but she would turn them down just to grant a child their dream, or take away their pain.

Patsy set up The Dorset Children’s Foundation along with her partner Scott in 2013.

She gave up a good job, and later even gave up her home, to make real her dream of changing the lives of sick and disabled children.

Coming from a place of disillusionment having previously worked for another charity, and seeing the wastage, overheads and administrative barriers, she was determined to eliminate the bureaucracy.

Her mission was to cut out the layers, and ensure that every donated penny ends up going towards the goal.

It started with one charity shop, which turned to three.

Five years later, the charity has raised over £500,000 and supported 75 children.

Patsy’s original mission still holds true: all overheads are more than covered by the three shops’ takings, meaning that every penny donated is directly funding a local child in need.

The success and fulfilment of her original mission is largely due to the enormous sacrifices that Patsy makes daily.

She works tirelessly for the charity, but remunerates herself modestly and minimally.

It would be safe to say that she works at least 80 hours per week but the truth would be that she is never not working.

Even when at home of an evening, she will be in constant contact with her families - checking in on them, answering their messages and resolving issues.

She attends a ridiculous amount of corporate and business events in the perpetual pursuance of generating partnership working, raising the charity’s profile, and driving forward revenue.

She has been remarkably successful at this, and thanks to her perseverance and graft, last year The DCF was chosen as the official charity partner for premiership football club AFC Bournemouth’s Junior Cherries.

Along with this, Patsy has amassed many prestigious large and small local businesses to support the charity.

Her likability speaks for itself in the astounding engagement she has engendered with local suppliers and tradesmen to procure complimentary services such as printing and catering.

Yet no sooner has Patsy secured her last donation or offering, she is accelerating towards the next.  She is constantly horizon-scanning for the next opportunity to raise money for her families.

But the success and impact of Patsy and The DCF is not just about the money that has been raised, or the life-changing equipment and therapy that has been delivered to the children.

It’s about the sanctuary she provides to her families, the feeling of belonging, believing, deserving.

Patsy recognises the bigger picture: A sick or disabled child doesn’t stop at that child.

There are mums and dads who are in a place of isolation, desperation and sadness.  There are sisters and brothers that are scared, overshadowed, lonely and confused.

Patsy provides a haven to the whole family, when they most need it. She has created a unique family unit based on warmth and togetherness.

Where parents sometimes feel defeated and lost, she advocates and fights.

Patsy is a quintessential mother bear.  She nurtures and protects, she radiates love and is ferocious and fierce in defence of her young.

Often the drive to set up a charity and make a difference comes from a personal experience, but in Patsy’s case she doesn’t have a disabled child, yet she found the passion and drive from somewhere deeply selfless to make her dream a reality.

Patsy now has dozens of her own children who she loves dearly.

Each of them, and their mums, dads, sisters and brothers, all love her back, and thank her infinitely for the life-changing differences she has made to each and every one of them.

Patsy may have sacrificed her home, lifestyle and job, to make The Dorset Children’s Foundation the success that it is, but she is richer now than she ever has been.

Because to Patsy, the true measure of wealth is the satisfaction you hold in your heart.  And Patsy’s heart is full to the brim.


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