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CEO blog – Musings from my first month

Pictured: CEO Gen Dearman (far left) with Guildford Pre-school staff

I’m writing this blog post as I come to the end of my first month as CEO of Challengers, and what a month it has been!

While I’ve not yet managed to get around to all of our Play and Youth schemes, Pre-schools and 555 service, or met all of our wonderful staff and supporters, I have already seen such passion for our work, and how dedicated Team Orange is to ensuring all young people can have fun and develop through play, no matter how complex their needs.

If asked to describe my first month in three words, I would say welcoming, humbling and hopeful. Three words that I think also sum up Challengers.

Whether it’s a parent, carer, new young person, a young person that has been with us for years, or a new member of staff – you will always have the warmest welcome from our team. I’ve spent some time this month hearing parents talk of the importance of respite to their lives, and that of their children, and seeing first-hand how happy our young people are to see their “orange friends”. Realising the love and strength of our parents and carers, and the challenges our young people deal with daily is nothing short of humbling.

Speaking to other local short breaks providers, we are all fundamentally aware of the funding and staffing challenges the care sector is facing, but we continue to stand strong and ensure we can help as many young people as funding allows – adapting our services to meet new and different needs.


I want to end my first blog post by sharing a story about Sam. Sam’s Mum told us that Sam has Down’s Syndrome and complex medical needs: “He has trouble communicating with his peers and therefore does not make friends easily. Sam started at Challengers when he was 5 years old, and it has helped so much with separation from home. Sam can truly be himself there and now tries to communicate more as and is therefore more independent.

“My two older children cheer when it is a Challengers day, because as much as they love him, he can’t get into everything and it limits what we can do. We will often drop Sam and then drive to the coast for the day and go for a long walk and talk together, something so simple people take it for granted, but something we can only do with the support of Challengers. All parents of disabled children should have this opportunity to have access to a high-quality play scheme.”

So at the end of my first month while I’m aware of the challenges that we face, I can’t help but feel hopeful about our future and honoured to be part of the difference we make.

Gen Dearman, March 2022