BBC Children in Need Award helps charity increase engagement during pandemic to vulnerable, hard-to-reach families

Posted on June 29th, 2021

The Muscle Help Foundation charity was delighted to receive confirmation of an Award following an application to BBC Children in Need’s COVID-19 Next Steps Programme (Additional Funding Phase).

A grant funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) in the amount of £34,909.00 was approved for resources to directly support the charity’s ongoing virtual Muscle Dream activities for children and young people with Muscular Dystrophy, isolated due to Covid-19. The grant also included a contribution towards evaluation and associated project delivery costs.

The aim of the project was to reduce isolation, improve connectivity and restore future hopes. The difference the charity made for children and young people can be summarised by the following three points:

  • Reduce isolation through online communication and engagement.
  • Staying connected with each other and the outside world.
  • Support good mental wellbeing and restore hope for the future
“There is something incredibly powerful that happened as a result of the Music 1.0 session; it has given our son hope, confidence and he has recognised what he is capable of. We know as his family just how talented and capable he is, and now he knows and believes it too which is just wonderful to see.” (Source: Mum of ‘B’, 9yrs)


All ‘Music 1.0’ Muscle Warrior participants received:

‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse’ by Charlie Mackesy
‘Eat Sleep Sing’ by Stacey DeLooze

In a mother’s own words, read a case-study illustrating the impact on the life of her 9yr-old son as a result of his participation in one of the charity’s bespoke virtual programmes.



Music 1.0 – Virtual Muscle Dream Programme

“He would like to do it again – it 100% lifted his spirits and all of ours, and all the extra bits are so appreciated and special.”

“Our son loved it – he loves singing so much!”

“He felt loved, appreciated, noticed, nurtured and part of the Muscle Warrior tribe. He is feeling so much more positive, and his confidence has definitely been uplifted.”

“These sessions really help with isolation, and they are fun, but they also bring skills, which are so important. So excited to see what MHF does next!”

“It was our son’s first ever time on Zoom. He was so nervous as has been shielding for the past year and has not been at school. It was a big deal doing it when he hasn’t been at school for so long.”

“Through the session he relaxed, and it built up his confidence. He saw the benefits of talking and being part of something unique. He is almost 16 and it is good for him to be out of his comfort zone and be put in these positions. As a mum, I enjoyed seeing his progression.”

All the goodies that have been received have been so amazing. All read the books and absolutely loved the Charlie Mackesy one. We are all talking about the books to everyone we know.

“At the end he was smiling – he was so proud of himself for doing it.”

“Our son really lacks confidence, but it was so lovely to see that he came out of his shell as he’s such a character – he loved the session so much.”

“He has read the books and has been practising with the singing one a lot. When the little box of sweets arrived his eyes lit up, he had such a grin.”

“The whole thing has really given him the boost that he needed and to be part of something. His mood has lifted, and he has been playing on his guitar and singing much more since the session – he loves music.”

Art 1.0 – Virtual Muscle Dream Programme

“We do not lose hope – these virtual Muscle Dreams really help us with that; the support from the charity and contact has been amazing.”

“It was a very different kind of experience – the whole family enjoyed it all. Siblings have entered the creative competition.”

We are noticing each time that our son is engaging more. He feels so isolated. These virtual sessions are really helping.”

“We are so looking forward to the families catch-up this weekend; it’s so important to do. We get ideas of how to help each other and know what each other are going through as we’re all shielding. I would love this to happen more regularly.”

“Really enjoyed the session – especially liked doing the input into the drawing and seeing the work happen live in real-time, right in front of you.”

“His grow-your-own garden kit arrived yesterday – he has his own little garden so that’s great, thank you so much.”

Laughter 2.0 – Virtual Muscle Dream Programme

“This was the first time a charity has arranged something like this, with all the families together having similar circumstances. In this time of pandemic, when everyone is under such huge pressure and stress, laughter yoga or laughter exercises was really needed. We learnt about the importance of laughter to relieve stress. To be very honest, we had forgotten about how to laugh during these many months of lockdown. It elevated our moods for some time. It gave us the feeling that someone is there for us and looking after us. I hope you will plan something like this again in the future.”

“Our favourite bit was talking to the other families.”

“The event really lifted our spirits. It was just what we needed.”

“We loved the treats (got pizza); always grateful for food. We got an extra pizza for the freezer, so it is the gift that keeps on giving!”

“We loved the book, plus the ‘Cuppa & Catch-Up’ was so good to catch up with the charity. The lovely afternoon tea topped it all off.”

“Looking forward to future activities – feeling so supported by the charity, plus watching the ‘In Conversation With’ broadcast on Facebook; they’re great!”

“We’re new to the charity; it was a great first experience. It lifted our spirits. We’re looking forward to seeing what else is coming up, now we are part of the Muscle Warriors!”

“I’ve always known that our Muscle Dream interventions make a positive, meaningful and lasting difference. Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed how lives have changed, how our vulnerable communities have suffered and how our mental wellbeing has been impacted by the scourge of isolation. I’m so proud that the charity’s programmes ignited interests and brought families together at what for many continues to be a difficult time.

Thanks to BBC Children in Need, the charity has extended its ability to increase engagement to hard-to-reach families. Beneficiaries have become involved in an inclusive group where the restorative benefits of ‘hope’ prevail and where personal identities and that powerful sense-of-belonging are reinforced. We have been able to continue to focus on our vision in providing an increasing number of families with the support they so desperately need.

We have taken the time to listen, to hear our families and to then plan a variety of bespoke interventions rooted in music, art and laughter. The BBC Children in Need grant enabled us to recruit two key full-time contractor roles for what essentially was an eight-week timeframe – a Virtual Muscle Dream Maker and a Community Engagement Lead, worked closely in partnership.

These programmes engaged the specific needs of 82 vulnerable children, young people and their families. We maximized the impact of this funding to reduce social isolation, improve mental health and well-being and provide hope for the future to disadvantaged families. I believe we have enabled their voices, concerns and hopes to be heard and yet there is still so much to be done and so many other families who continue to face additional social isolation, stress and financial pressures – we know this is an incredibly damaging cocktail, which is why we desperately need more support.

In addition to the day-to-day challenges that living with a disability presents, the cause and effect of COVID-19 has become strikingly evident for our community of vulnerable young people and their families – if your organisation can help us deliver even more of this work, please reach out.

Michael McGrath

CEO, The Muscle Help Foundation

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