Guest Blog – An Amazing Charity Run by Amazing People

Written by Ian Hassell, October 2023

This month’s guest blog is courtesy of Ian Hassell, brother of Challengers co-founder Colin Hassell, who shares his thoughts on the charity’s legacy and his recent visit to Challengers.

I recently listened to a mother being interviewed about her son and she was asked “What would you like him to be when he grows up?” and without hesitation she said, “I’d like him to be kind”. Her answer made a deep impression on me because I thought what a perfect answer! If one is kind, then everything else flows from this.

I mention this because I really feel like this sums up my brother Colin, who is the co-founder of the amazing charity Challengers. It was inspired by Colin and Helen’s expertise, knowledge and vision, which they made into a reality – and what a legacy!

Ian and his husband Les

I have the honour and privilege of being Colin’s brother (younger brother I must add!) and I have always admired his work for others that has shaped his life.

Although I was delighted to be at the grand opening of the charity when it became Challengers in 1984, I wasn’t able to be too involved at that time because I had moved to London. However, my brother-in-law Julian was treasurer in the charity’s early days, and our eldest brother John and our parents Mona & Fred were actively involved in fundraising and promoting Challengers.

It is only in recent years that I have properly sat up and taken notice of my brother’s achievement, and in particular when I ‘re-connected’ with Challengers this year.

In June, my husband Les and I had the opportunity to meet the new Chief Executive Officer Gen Dearman and her fabulous team, and were given a guided tour of the Challengers premises and learn more about their exciting plans for the future. Gen and her team couldn’t have made us feel more welcome. In my leaving speech I felt quite emotional knowing what an incredible job each and every member of the team do to ensure that not only the young people are cared for, nurtured and encouraged, but also their siblings and parents/carers are supported and given the space they need to talk about their feelings, and the challenges that they face on a daily basis.

Colin at Challengers in the 80s

We have just watched Challengers’ new film supporting their Free To Be Me appeal, and I was deeply moved by what Pippa, Priti, Peta and Vanessa had to say about the impact that Challengers has on their beautiful children’s lives. We were introduced to Jesse and Libby, Jayan, Anna, and Clara and they all looked so happy. It was abundantly clear just how much Challengers means to them, what they gain from it, and the amazing support it offers their families.

Of course, there are many more young people and families who benefit from the support provided by Challengers’ wonderful team, and it costs a lot of money to keep these incredible services running. Everyone needs to watch this great film because it is inspiring on so many levels and Challengers is only successful because of the time, effort, enthusiasm and dedication of everyone involved.

I know that Colin will be SO proud that the service that he and Helen started all those years
ago is going from strength to strength, and Les and I wish Challengers continued success
going forward.

Ian, Colin Hassell’s brother
Challengers’ grand opening in 1984
Ian and Colin’s parents – Mona and Fred