What price happiness? Why corporate sponsorship of SSAFA’s Short Breaks is worth every penny

It was Oscar Wilde who encapsulated the notion of “worth” perhaps better than anyone when he famously wrote that a cynic is “A man who know the price of everything, and the value of nothing”.

© Steven Barber

So, for the philosophers reading this, what is value of a person’s happiness?

Like everything, the price of happiness varies. If £1,000 or £5,000 goes a long way to making lives better – and with the services SSAFA provides, it does – then £45,000 goes proportionally far further.

But why £45,000? Well, that was how much UK housing provider Annington – a corporate partner of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity – gave to sponsor the entire August Short Break at the Calvert Trust’s Lake District site.

For the uninitiated, SSAFA’s Short Breaks are for serving – including reservist – families who have a child with an additional need or disability, be it developmental, emotional, behavioural, physical, or any combination of these.

Short Breaks, which are free to those attending them, are an opportunity for families to spend quality time together, to try fun adventure activities and to meet other Forces families in similar situations.

This encapsulates the meaning behind SSAFA’s slogan for October of “For families, for life”.

But nothing in life labelled “free” really is.

Calvert Trust Lake District and its sister site on Exmoor offer adapted and inclusive opportunities for adventurous activities including kayaking, rock climbing, horse-riding, and archery for all abilities. Yet while the families making memories on a Short Break are gifted the experience, the necessary costs involved in taking over the site’s facilities must be met.

In addition to Annington, major funding for the breaks comes from the Army Central Fund, the Reta Lila Howard Foundation, and the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust, but whatever size the donation from a SSAFA Corporate Friend or major donor, the benefits far exceed the fiscal figure.

Frances Robinson, SSAFA’s Service Manager Additional Needs and Disability, said:

Due to the needs of our families, we often find that many struggle to find activities they can all do together, let alone find a break away. These Short Breaks give families just that; a chance to escape the ‘day-to-day’.

All family members can participate in adventure activities together, no matter what the need and most importantly, they are chance for families to meet others in similar situations, to share experiences and support each other.”

Back to the philosophical question. Actually, the price of a person’s happiness is not even the generous £45,000 from Annington, because it paid for so many families and was therefore split into fractions of the total.

But the value of that individual’s happiness, of course, is incalculable. It is a feeling, a state, and so no monetary or other figure can be attached to it.

Perhaps, though, it can be summed up in words.

Take these from one of the young visitors to the summer’s Short Break at Calvert Trust Lake District:

This is the happiest and saddest week.

Happiest because we felt like we belonged and were accepted with no judgement. Sad because we have to return to the real world. If we could access one of these breaks each summer, we would. Thank you SSAFA.

For that young person, having a sense of belonging, being accepted, and not being judged ran alongside being happy as the knock-on effects of a SSAFA Short Break.

For another, it was more about opportunities. She wrote about her favourite activity, saying:

Cycling was actually something I wanted to do for ages, but with my parents being busy at work, we weren’t able to. I also got to spend time with my dad, mainly racing and beating him!

These notions of achievement, of belonging, of simply being happy are not peculiar to children with disabilities, not even to children of serving Regular or Reservist UK Armed Forces personnel, not even to children. They are universal desires and, crucially, rights that cross all boundaries.

SSAFA helps achieve this, underlining again this October’s theme of “For families, for life”.

Annington’s funding helped in other ways, too.

In a usual year, three Short Breaks are held, with each oversubscribed by a ratio of around two-to-one. Annington’s direct support meant that more serving families and their children than ever before could access a Short Break. Rising demand saw this increase to four in 2022, with five planned for 2023.

Helen Liddell, Chair of Annington, commented:

Funding SSAFA’s Short Breaks has been a central element of our overall support for military families this year.

Having had the pleasure of meeting so many of the families, the impact of a holiday at Calvert Trust was very clear to see. For Service families who have a child with a special need or disability, accessing additional support can be difficult and add to the challenges of life as a military family.

The benefits of SSAFA’s Short Breaks programme speak for themselves and we are delighted to have helped this very deserving group create some very happy memories.”

Sam Nowell, SSAFA’s Corporate Partnerships Manager added:

SSAFA is incredibly grateful to Annington for supporting – through its generous sponsorship – one entire Short Break to the tune of £45,000.

Projects and opportunities like these help Forces youngsters build self-confidence and the benefits these types of experiences can have on young people are immeasurable, and so I must say, on behalf of SSAFA, a big ‘thank you’ to Annington for its generous assistance with the Short Breaks, because however much it costs, the memories these serving and reservist Forces’ families made are priceless.”

In addition to the Short Breaks scheme, SSAFA’s Corporate Partners provide a lifeline to serving personnel – regulars or reserves – as well as veterans and their families. For more information, including how to become a Corporate Partner, visit

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