Midlands teenager recognised by National Lottery for supporting disabled children in lockdown

·5-min read
Joseph's inspirational work supporting Footprints families have led to a bench being built in his local Bridgford Park
Joseph's inspirational work supporting Footprints families have led to a bench being built in his local Bridgford Park

An East Midlands teenager has been recognised and honoured by The National Lottery and Repair Shop host Jay Blades for his efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, supporting disabled children.

Joseph Rutherford, 15, has been supporting disability charity Footprints – by posting videos of his dancing online. As a child Joseph used to attend the Nottingham charity that supports babies and pre-school children with disabilities by improving their motor skills and communication.

The 15-year-old was born with Down syndrome and autism and was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

During lockdown, Joseph helped to boost morale of the Footprints families by posting videos of himself dancing along to uplifting tunes on social media, such as Monty Python’s ‘Always Look on The Bright Side of Life’.

Helped by his mum Miriam, who is a speech therapist for the charity, he also recorded renditions of songs using Makaton sign language, including a rendition of Vera Lynn’s ‘We’ll Meet Again’ to mark VE Day.

Joseph lives with parents Miriam and Les in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire
Joseph lives with parents Miriam and Les in West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire

Joseph, who attends Ash Lea School in Cotgrave and lives with his parents Miriam and Les and younger sister Hannah, 13, went on to raise more than £4,000 for Footprints with a 26km tandem bike ride with his dad, drawing admiration from one of his heroes, James Corden.

Joseph’s campaigning efforts have earned him a lasting tribute in the local community, in the form of a bespoke bench, distinctively designed by BBC Repair Shop's Jay Blades, which has been placed in Bridgford Park.

The charity worker is one of 12 ‘Unsung Champions’ across the UK being recognised for their time and efforts in supporting some of the most vulnerable in communities during the pandemic.

“Footprints were absolutely fundamental in my early development – they work with the child and with the family and treat the child as a whole and look at all aspects,” said Joseph, speaking as The National Lottery revealed that almost half of people (49%) feel, that notwithstanding the hardships of the pandemic, one of the positives to emerge is the sense of community spirit and 58% have an increased appreciation for community workers (58%).

“The eating, the drinking, the socialising, the walking the talking – I learnt to sign very early on which is certainly essential for children with Down syndrome.

“It’s a very happy place and you’ve got support not only from the people that work there, but also from everybody in the same situation as you as well.

“It was really important that Footprints kept that face-to-face, or virtual contact during the pandemic – I think families enjoyed keeping up contact.

“We were really concerned that Footprints was going to have to close because they rely totally on charitable donations.

“The highlight of the year was definitely the bike ride on the tandem with my Dad. My mummy and my sister joined in with me, it was one of the most amazing bikes rides I’ve ever been on.”

In some communities the actions of a few have made life bearable for many and Joseph is just one example of the thousands of people and projects across the UK who have received National Lottery funding in order to support communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

National Lottery players contribute £30 million a week to good causes around the country, many of which are supporting the most vulnerable in communities across the UK during the Coronavirus crisis.

“National Lottery funding really, really helps – we’ve received it for a few years now and it just allows Footprints to carry on and to feel stable in what they do, they can’t pay people or provide the service that they do unless they’ve got money behind them,” added Joseph.

Joseph posted videos of himself dancing along to uplifting tunes on social media as well as embarking on a 26km tandem bike ride
Joseph posted videos of himself dancing along to uplifting tunes on social media as well as embarking on a 26km tandem bike ride

“Footprints have also been provided with Lottery Covid-19 funding, which means the service they provide can carry on and the staff who were furloughed have been able to come back into work, so it’s just been amazing.”

This increased appreciation for people who help others in their community, has led to a greater desire from the public to honour them. So much so, that 12 times as many people would rather buy a drink for a local charity worker than an A-list celebrity.

Jay Blades said: “Like most of us, I have witnessed inspirational acts of selflessness and kindness this year as people have adapted their lives to help others. It has been an honour to get to know the 12 people whose work is being honoured today with a bespoke bench being placed in their local area.”

Dawn Austwick, CEO of The National Lottery Community Fund said: “For 25 years The National Lottery has helped make amazing things happen, but never in such extraordinary times. People and communities have found themselves facing myriad challenges and pressures but have still found the passion and drive to support each other in so many ways. These bespoke community benches are a fitting tribute and show that their incredible work has not gone unnoticed and is in fact recognised, valued and inspiring others more than ever before.”