Buckinghamshire Freemasons held its 11th Young Carers Summer BBQ on 24th June 2018 and with 184 people in attendance, made it the highest visited event since it began

The event was created as a chance to offer young carers, up to 16 years old, the chance to be ‘children’ again for the day. These children normally spend their home lives helping and supporting parents or siblings with mental or physical disabilities, meaning they spend their time caring rather than playing.

The Young Carers Summer BBQ is an event that allows the attending children to spend the day with other young carers playing and enjoying themselves, with help for their families provided by Young Carers MK and Freemasons from a number of lodges including St Martin's Lodge No. 2812.

The event is paid for by Buckinghamshire Freemasons under the Freemasonry in the Community funds and ensures that the entire event is free of charge for the families and the charity itself.

Highlights on the day included a petting zoo, where children got the opportunity to meet dogs, ducks, donkey, sheep, lamb and pigs, whilst additional entertainment was provided by a local DJ, two face painters who came and made the children feel like superheroes or princesses, as well as a bouncy castle and sling shot run. Finally, the event included many games such as skittles, a coconut shy and bubbles.

Nicholas Hills Sands-Potter, Event Organiser for Buckinghamshire Freemasons, said: 'Buckinghamshire Freemasons are delighted to be able to serve young careers in the community.

'This year we had families that hadn't engaged with the charity for over four years come along to the event and were finally given the chance to leave the house and not feel like they will be looked at or treated differently. To be able to organise this means a lot to all local Freemasons.'

Helping young carers

For many years St Martin’s Lodge No. 2812, which meets at the Bletchley Masonic Centre, has worked closely with Young Carers MK, a charity based in Milton Keynes.

The lodge has hosted several summer balls and holds an annual fun day and barbecue to raise funds for this important charity.

Young Carers MK supports children and young people aged 8-19 years old who care for a family member because of a physical or mental illness, disability, drug or alcohol related problem.

The cared-for person may be a parent or sibling, or another relative living in the same household. The child or young person does not necessarily have to be providing ‘hands-on’ care to be recognised as a young carer. Even if there are services in place and other members of the family helping with the care, the emotional impact and restrictions due to illness or disability can still have an enormous effect on the young carer.

In 2014 Nick Hills Sands-Potter, a member of St Martin’s Lodge, looked at his own lifestyle and realised that it was not conducive to a long and healthy life. If he wanted to enjoy watching his own family grow up he needed to lose enough weight to be there for them, in the years to come.

Nick said: 'Over the past 24 months I've lost more than five stone in weight and have another three to go, a lot of this has been done with the support and love of my family and friends.

'My original goal was to lose enough weight to be there for my family, but it opened my eyes to how some people can't enjoy their life in the same way.The young carers are youngsters that need to look after other members of their family due to some form of disability. Rather than being able to play football with their friends they go shopping, give medication or look after their siblings.

'Young Carers MK is able to give direct support, or some much needed time away from their responsibilities for them to be children again. I decided that part of the drive to help me lose weight and be able to have quality time with my own children, would be to help others have quality time of their own.'

Since starting his lifestyle changes Nick has completed a 10km cross country run in the hills above Chesham, the Milton Keynes Half Marathon, with Nathan Smith also of St Martin’s Lodge, and is booked in for another half marathon in October

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