The only way is up for Team Rise

There can't have been a dry eye in the house when comedian and cerebral palsy sufferer Lee Ridley won the grand final of Britain's Got Talent on Sunday.

Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:08 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 11:28 am
Let's hear it for Team Rise! Sharon (centre front) with members of Team Rise

The self deprecating humour of the comedian, who can only communicate through a voice synthesiser and calls himself Lost Voice Guy, was a hit with the judges and also the TV audience.

It was a victory and a remarkable step forward not just for Lee but for all the millions of people who have a disability or special needs that often puts them on the fringes of society, seeing opportunities and chances that most of us take for granted, pass them by.

Voted for by the public, this could be a total game changer people with disabilities. But it has been a long time coming.

Sharon Lees (right) and Abby Naylor of Team Rise

Sharon Lees may agree with that as she is a manager of Team Rise which, on paper "offers a safe and accessible environment to learning disabled and disadvantaged individuals."

What that statement fails to convey is the laughter, friendship and fun that Team Rise, which stands for Standing Together Everyone Achieves More Respecting Individual Skills and Experiences, is all about.

Situated in the heart of Burnley town centre Team Rise exists to give individuals the opportunity to develop, socialise and explore their ideas and goals through a wide variety of educational, social and practical activities.

This can be anything, from dancing lessons and quizzes, to cookery classes and days out.

Three members of Team Rise prepare to model clothes donated to the group to sell on ebay to raise funds.

Team Rise shows people with special needs they CAN do things they have dreamed about.

And at the forefront of all this is Sharon who has been involved with the project since its launch.

"It is chaotic, unpredictable and I absolutely love it!!" said Sharon with a huge smile.

"We are like one big family here and while it can get a bit crazy at times I wouldn't have it any other way.

"To see people come here, grow in confidence and develop great friendships and even go on to get jobs on a daily basis is fantastic and I cannot imagine ever doing anything else

"We have grown so much over the last few years and now I feel we are comfortable in our own space and getting the most out of everything we do.

"Finances will always be a worry, as we do not get any government funding, but with the love, support and friendship of others we somehow manage and I know we will do so for many more years to come. "

With 51 members weekly and 10 to 15 drop ins, Team Rise is a Community Interest Company based in Burnley that offers a safe and accessible environment to learning disabled and disadvantaged individuals.

The objective is to give individuals the opportunity to develop, socialise and explore their ideas and goals through a wide variety of educational, social and practical activities.

It also provides tailored and empathetic support, empowering individuals to contribute to their communities in a meaningful and positive way, reducing social isolation and loneliness.

Relying heavily on volunteers Team Rise has a learning and skills programme which offers a variety of educational courses, social enterprise which allows members to run a business to help raise funds for the group.

At the moment members are embroiling themselves in the world of fashion by selling clothes donated to on ebay.

The group also runs social and educational days with a weekly activity or trip, visiting many places throughout the North West and beyond

Members also have access to information, advice and guidance to help them with their confidence in dealing with social situations and also applying for jobs.

Indeed several members have gone on to find work and their success is undoubtedly due to the help and support of Team Rise.

The dedicated team of voilunteers helping Team Rise members includes Keith Blackburn, John Hamer, Susan Jackson, Margaret Kennedy, Eunice Whittaker and Anne Green.

Sharon said: "The volunteers do such a tremendous job for us and they absolutely love it. I am so grateful to them for all that they do for Team Rise.

"A couple of the ladies are retired and they wanted something to keep them occupied so they came to help us and they haven't looked back."

As Sharon explains, many people with special needs or someone who is vulnerable often get forgotten about or ignored, especially if they live alone.

Sharon, who became involved in the group when she worked for Veda Recruitment and Training, which has given a lot of support to Team Rise, said: "Vulnerable people need that extra help and support to give them the confidence to come out of their shell.

"We have members who are adults but have lived with their parents into adulthood for support.

"When their parents die they often have nowhere else to turn to."

Team Rise is about reaching out to those people and making sure they live fulfilling lives as part of society.

The group has recently appointed Abby Naylor as marketing officer for the group and part of her role will be to help source funding and grants to keep Team Rise thriving.

The group is in the process of applying for charitable status, thanks to a £25,000 prize it won in a community competition run by Burnley and Pendle Freemasons.

On Saturday, June 30th, a major fundraising event, the Rainbow Ball, has been organised at Stanley House in Mellor and and in September there is a sponsored sky dive that businesses and organisations have been invited to take part in to help raise funds.