'˜Invaluable' work of trustees at North Yorkshire charity is celebrated

A North Yorkshire charity has spoken of the 'invaluable' role of its trustees, who have helped it to raise more than £100,000 to fund a new permanent home in less than a year, as charities across the region mark Trustee Week.

Ryedale Special Families' junior club

Caroline Shepherdson first came into contact with Ryedale Special Families, which supports more than 400 families with disabled children, when she moved to Norton near Malton seven years ago with her two children, the eldest of whom, Daniel, now 13, was diagnosed with Asperger’s.

Two years ago, she became a trustee of the charity, around the same time her second son, Matthew, nine, was also diagnosed with the condition.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mrs Shepherdson, 49, is now using her logistics and planning skills from the world of work to help the charity find and fund its first ever non-rented home.

Caroline Shepherdson, a trustee for Ryedale Special Families, with her son Matthew at the charity's Yorkshire Wolds Cycle.

She said: “Before I became a trustee, I was very much on the sidelines, but got more involved as we took part in family session, visiting places like Dalby Forest, and then I founded an autism support group in Kirbymoorside that eventually became under the wing of RSF.

“After my second son was diagnosed, I got so much support that I just felt I wanted to give something back. I just happened naturally that I wanted to get more involved.”

The charity’s chief officer Lisa Keenan, said it heavily relied upon its 12 trustees, who are all parents of children with disabilities.

“When we began 20 years ago, as a group of parents coming together to support each other, it was quite rare for a group to be so user-led - but that is how it has always been, and with our trustees, continues to be,” she said.

Caroline Shepherdson's sons Daniel, 13, and Matthew, nine, on a Ryedale Special Families trip to Peat Rigg Outdoor Center.

“It’s one of the reasons we have been so successful. The trustees oversee the charity and our finances, and steer the direction in which we go in.

“Fundraising has always been a big part of what they do, but this year they have been so motivated in helping us to reach our goal for the new property.

”There’s quite a lot that is expected of parents - especially the parents of a child with a disability - to do this on top is amazing.”

This week the Charity Commission is marking national trustee week.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy, planning and communications said the hard work that trustees put into running charities “is vital to our society”.

She added: “One of the themes of this year’s Trustees’ Week is diversity in trusteeship and we want to highlight how people from all walks of life can make a difference to a cause they feel passionate about.

“Making sure a charity board has a good mix of people from different backgrounds and experiences helps promote good governance so that the organisation can thrive, as well as helping to strengthen our society by bringing together diverse people who care about the same cause.

“Being a trustee can also offer huge rewards for both organisations and employees, allowing people opportunities for leadership and a chance to broaden their skills for the workplace.”

Mrs Keenan added: “The image of a trustee is that they are sat in meetings looking at financial reports, and while there is an element of that, there is so much more involved.

“It’s a great way of becoming involved in the community and using the skills that you have to provide charities with expert knowledge. “