Life of quality requested by Parents Group

Eight elegant ladies meet in Auckland Restaurants on a regular basis. Their get-togethers are always on a Friday. The Friday closest to one of the group’s birthdays. With the exception of a youngster, within the group, the ladies ages range from mid 70’s to early 90’s.

Their stylish grace belie their years, especially considering the troubles they have encountered.

They were very supportive of the Spastic Fellowship but felt that more lobbying needed to be done for the generation just leaving school. This generation included the parent group’s sons and daughters Bruce Burgess, Barrie and Matt Hutchins, Mary Armstrong, Judith McCrorie, Errol James, Karen Burt, Amanda Orphen, and Anthea Hurst.

“We saw no future for our children and their peers when they left school and we were determined to lobby, the Government, the hospital board, and local councils for a better deal and that is why our group started,” said Jocelyn Burgess.

Initially the parents group was a separate entity from the Spastic Fellowship. They used to meet at Mary Armstrong’s place once a month to discuss the best way to move forward.

The decision was made easy by looking into the faces of their sons and daughters. The determined eyes of their offspring and their friends said it all. Parent and child had fought hard against the odds to survive birth and the fragile weeks, months and years post birth. The survival mode was behind them and now as young adults they wanted a life of quality.

Picnics were planned, four wheel drive rallies were organised and the concept of an annual Social was conceived. The Social became the highlight of the year, where the parent group insisted that alcohol be served. This was a brave and daring move for this time period as most of their target group were cast as victims of the medical model that discouraged adult like behaviour. This may have been an unintentional side effect of the times but that was definitely the perception.

The decision to give their target group the dignity of adulthood was simple; the application of this goal was anything but fund raising was a major hurdle and Jocelyn was put in charge of this daunting task.

She approached it with her usual enthusiasm. Flea market stalls in Otara and the North Shore were considered a prime source of funding events and Jocelyn’s garage was the designated drop off location for donated contributions. Florence Hutchins remembers Barrie’s lady taxi driver donating beautiful clothes which considerably raised the value of the booty

On market day Jocelyn tumbled out of bed at 4.30am and carted the table and heavily laden boxes to the destination of the day.
The parents group were only given enough space for one table. In reality they had enough goods to fill three or four tables but they didn’t like to complain, especially as they were given the space for free. The only obligation they had to fulfil was to arrive at the market by 7am; otherwise the space would go to someone else.

The goods they didn’t sell was put in a box and carried around the market.

“A $1 a box or $2 a box” was the call to squeeze out the financial tally of the day

“We raised all that money and didn’t ask the Fellowship or anyone else for anything. Every year we put on the Socials. The main purpose was to get people out so they could eat, drink and dance like adults,” said Jocelyn Burgess.

The socials popularity grew at an astonishing pace. The first was held at the CCS in Mount Street but because of the increase in attendees it was shifted to Remuera Intermediate the following year. The third year the venue was shifted once again to an even larger hall at the Blind Foundation where it found a permanent home.

The beauty of the foundation’s venue was that it had a stage where the “Lex Pistols” became a regular fixture. The band was made up of lawyers who really got the party humming along.

Wheelchairs were whirled around the dance floor while the wheelchair users jived to the beat. With the chairs in high-speed motion and the occupants in full swing it’s a great surprise that no great casualties were reported, especially considering the dance floor embraced a clutch of crutches and callipers. There was of course the odd unsteady body, not necessarily belonging to a person with Cerebral Palsy.

Despite the clustered dance floor there was no instances of bodily harm recorded but there was plenty of tales of enduring fun and laughter. High spirits were in abundance where, for three or four hours, people forgot their mundane lives, consisting of four dreary walls of the family home or a hospital ward.

The parents group made this happen. They raised this money, bought the food, prepared it at home and arrived at the Social venue early, to ensure all went well.

The group also recognised the importance of raising awareness. With that in mind they regularly invited dignitaries to the functions. The philosophy was that Members of Parliament and local councillors needed to be aware that Cerebral Palsy people were out there wanting to be part of the community, but they needed a little help from their friends in high places. The Minister of Social Welfare attended the first Social at CCS. Invitations to the Mayor and other MP’s followed.

When asked to convey the most satisfying moment of that era it was universally agreed it was the “joy we gave CP’s” and undoubtedly giving them a little hope for the future.