Scotty’s Little Soldiers, the charity for bereaved military children and young people, recently put on their annual Winter Festival to remind their members it’s okay to smile and that they aren’t alone.
This year’s festival was held on 2 December at County Hall, London, and attended by over 130 children and young people who have experienced the death of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces. Ages ranged from six months to 17 years old.
The event is held in a different location every year and gives Scotty Members an opportunity to have fun while meeting others in the same situation as them, reducing their feelings of isolation and reminding them they aren’t alone in their grief.
This year’s festival saw hundreds of Scotty Members splitting into teams and taking on a range of fun challenges including a reindeer derby, indoor snowboarding, bootlace race and much more. For every challenge completed, teams gained points, and at the end of the day the team with the most points won the coveted Scotty’s Trophy.
After a quick stop to relax and eat their provided lunch, Scotty Members then left their teams to enjoy a series of individual activities ranging from human hungry hippo to arts and crafts, a UV tent and karaoke with a live rock band, before rounding off the day with one of Scotty’s famous snowball fights.
As well as having a great time seeing their friends and making new ones, all Scotty Members had the opportunity to remember their parent who has died by writing a special message for them and placing it on a message tree. The team from Scotty’s were also on hand to offer emotional support if it was needed.
Scotty’s Little Soldiers’ Founder, Nikki Scott, said:
“December can be a really difficult time for bereaved children and their families, but the Winter Festival is such a brilliant way to put a smile on the face of all our members and remind them they’re not alone in their grief. All the activities were chosen to get our members interacting with each other, having fun and building their self-esteem. For many, it’s the first time they’ve ever met other young people who have also experienced the death of a military parent, which can be so important for a child or young person still coming to terms with their bereavement. It was a fantastic day and I loved seeing our members bond over their shared experiences, growing their confidence and leaving at the end of the day with new friends and a massive grin on their face.”
Scotty Member Elizabeth (9) said:
“I made loads of new friends and had lots of fun. I thought the dancing was really funny and then I had a snowball fight with my sister and lots of other members. I won, I think.”
Katie, who is mum to three-year-old Elijhah, said:
“The festival was really good. It’s the first one we’ve been to, so it was really nice to meet everyone from Scotty’s and get to know so many of the families. My son, Elijah, is only three, but he had a brilliant time – especially jumping around on the bouncy castle with all the other members.”
Laura, who is mum to Scotty Members Bella (13) and Evie (12), said:
“A huge thank you to all involved with the Winter Festival. Bella and Evie had the best time. I haven’t seen them smile or laugh like they have this weekend in a very long time. It’s wonderful to see them be themselves with friends who just get it.”
The Winter Festival is a special event for Scotty Members aged 0-17, but a group of the charity’s Springboarders (members aged 18-25) were on hand to offer support to younger beneficiaries and act as trusted adults who understand first-hand what it’s like to experience the death of a military parent.
Scotty Springboarder Beth (22) said:
“I think we all jumped at the opportunity to volunteer at the Winter Festival because we loved attending it so much as children. It was a great opportunity to help give that joy we felt to other bereaved children. On top of that, it’s just a great chance for us to see our friends from Scotty’s again and have a laugh!”
Scotty’s Little Soldiers is inspired by the experience of Army widow Nikki Scott, following the death of her husband Corporal Lee Scott in Afghanistan in 2009, the charity, which was set up in 2010, provides support and guidance to hundreds of bereaved military children and young people throughout their childhood.
Scotty’s currently supports over 650 members and services offered include access to child bereavement support, guidance to parents and carers, personal education and learning assistance (including grants), and fun activities such as holiday respite breaks and group events. These are all designed to remind the children and young people supported by Scotty’s that they are not alone.
Scotty’s 2023 Winter Festival wouldn’t have been possible without a helping hand. The charity would like to thank Paul Tibbs Photography for capturing the event, Rail Delivery Group for supplying the charity’s families and team members with rail tickets and CC1 Norfolk for providing first aid. Scotty’s would also like to thank a number of trusted military groups who were on-hand to offer specialised advice to bereaved military families including Forces Pension Society, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, Forces Employment and Military at Microsoft. Finally, the event would not have been possible without generous funding from the Annie Tranmer Charitable Trust, Kristina Martin Charitable Trust, Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, Tesco Community Grants and the Veterans’ Foundation.
If you also want to help Scotty’s support bereaved military children, finish your Christmas shopping with a donation for Scotty’s Little Soldiers. Every penny in the Scotty’s Christmas Stocking will help 650+ bereaved military children or young people to smile again following the death of their hero. #ScottysStocking