It was a horribly familiar hot sinking feeling as Carla Charalambides was told in the Blandford branch of Clark’s Shoes that the voucher for her daughter’s shoes was declined – but two year old Caitlin did not understand why she had to leave her beloved new ‘princess shoes’ behind.
“She’s usually such a happy girl” said Carla “but when I told her we had to leave without the new shoes she was SO upset. I’d honestly never seen her react this way. And then of course I started crying… thank goodness for masks, it was just all so embarrassing.
“I thrust the shoes onto the side, mumbled a thank you to Amelia and left as fast as I could.”
A public toddler tantrum is tricky for any parent to cope with. But for Carla, watching Caitlin get upset is far more worrying.
In December 2019, a then-1yr-old Caitlin had six seizures in twenty four hours. After a battery of tests they discovered she has a mass on her brain. For now, she has a diagnosis of epilepsy, as they wait to see how her health (and the mass) develop.
“She has drugs to control the epilepsy, which do affect her mood. But if she gets too upset, it can trigger an Emotive Seizure. It’s a difficult line to manage with a toddler!” says Carla.
Carla quietly acknowledged that she was trying to use a voucher provided by the Family Fund, the UK’s largest charity providing grants for families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people.
Carla is desperately trying to move accommodation; she told the digital Blackmore Vale her current home ‘isn’t great’;
“Damp and mould had ruined Caitlin’s clothes, and the Family Fund were so generous, they sent me £200 in vouchers to buy her some new clothes and shoes that fitted. But they were a different type of voucher to that which is usually used in shops, and the till didn’t recognise it. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, but obviously Caitlin didn’t understand. The new shoes weren’t just the prettiest she’s ever had; when she’d been fitted they were two sizes bigger than her old ones. I think they just felt so comfortable, and she couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her wear them. But… I just don’t have £22 in the bank to pay for them myself.
“Later that day, my sister in law called me to ask if I’d seen I was being looked for on Facebook. I couldn’t believe it – and there I was crying again!”
Amelia Morris, the Clarks branch manager in Blandford had felt sad for the young mum, and wanted to ensure Caitlin got her princess shoes.
“Honestly, life can be hard.” she says “We need to help each other when we can. I’m glad I could put a smile on both their faces”
Thanks to the power of the local Blandford Facebook community, Carla was swiftly tracked down, and put in touch with Amelia. Just a day later, Caitlin received her shoes (and has been wearing them ever since).
“I can’t ever thank Amelia enough.” Says Carla “I know she has said it was a small thing to do, but it honestly has meant the world to me. It made such a huge difference. I had to share the story, so that everyone knows what an absolute angel she is.”