|Marvellous mothers: Maw’s Mafia with Bill Paterson after receiving their award (Pic: STV)|
“Take care.” How often to people carelessly say it by way of goodbye? And it’s always struck me as totally unnecessary because who doesn’t take care of themselves, avoiding runaway buses, war-torn nations or tightrope walking?
“Give care.” Now, that’s a totally different proposition. That’s when you do something because it’s what’s needed. And it’s just a bit special.
Not long ago I was asked to be the blogging ambassador for the RBS – Finding Scotland’s Real Heroes awards. It was a huge honour, and I was delighted to accept.
I was chosen to represent the Carer of the Year category. I expected to be inspired by what I saw and heard. However I wasn’t prepared for just how impressed I’d be.
The winner was Maw’s Mafia – four women who set up a club, called the EK Hangout, for young adults with learning difficulties.
The maws in question are Elma Ross, Lynn Morrison, Lesley McGinley and Connie Smillie all of whom have sons who attend the East Kilbride club which now has around 40 members.
Elma’s son Lewis has severe autism and was upset when he learned that at 19, he’d be too old to attend the youth group he loved.
So Elma got in touch with the other women, who had sons in a similar situation, and soon the EK Hangout began to take shape as a club for young people to make friends and have fun with people of their own age.
She said: “We started with six to eight young people, now we have 40 and a waiting list. There’s a massive need for this.
“Everybody’s living the same life, so it’s been good for the parents. This award has been an amazing experience to meet such lovely people.”
The women explained that they began by just setting up something that would benefit their children. However, quickly they realised that they weren’t the only ones to struggle with the gap that appears when young people outgrow services set up for children.
“It’s about parent power,” Elma added. “Every town needs this and we’ll be happy to help.”
Connie said; “We are over the moon about the EK Hangout winning this award, it’s fantastic to get recognition. I think every town in Scotland should have a Hangout club.”
The EK Hangout happens every Monday evening at Calderglen High School. Activities include fitball and the ever-popular Scalextric.
Elma explained: “At The EK Hangout we include everyone and try to create as many opportunities for our members as possible. This is their club, and that’s what makes us unique.”
Lesley, whose son Jason is autistic, added: “Jason has thrived at The EK Hangout taking part in every activity each week. His confidence has soared, and his social skills have exceeded all my expectations. It’s the highlight of his week.”
One of the youngsters in the group was 25-year-old crash victim Stephanie Kelly. Stephanie was struggling with isolation but joining the EK Hangout changed her life, and now she looks forward to the sessions where she gets to spend time with her friends.
As a thank-you her aunt Alison Gilmour nominated the group for the RBS: Finding Scotland’s Real Hero Award.
When they were nominated, Elma said: “We feel we’re winners already, but this kind of recognition is just incredible.”
Elma, Lynn, Lesley and Connie were presented with their award by Comfort and Joy actor Bill Paterson. Bill said: “There’s this invisible army of people caring for others who do it out of love… who care for others in their community.”
And that’s exactly what the Maws did. They started something up because it’s what their children needed, but it quickly grew into a life-line for many local youngsters and their parents.
After the receiving the award, the Maws said: “Thank you so so much to every single person who took the time to vote for us. The whole experience has been amazing not only for us but all our club members.
“Seeing all those happy faces on film is something we will treasure forever. A huge thank you to all our wonderful members and extremely supportive parents for helping us make the club a success.
“It truly is a fun, happy place to be each week, thanks for all your support again; everyone is totally buzzing.”