On Thursday 27th June, CLAPA celebrated our 40th anniversary with proud Patron Carol Vorderman leading a round of thank-you speeches to founding members and Trustees past and present.
Carol’s older brother Anton was born with a cleft lip and palate in a time when there was very little support available outside the hospital walls, and when cleft care could be a postcode lottery. Carol and her brother have spoken openly about how this affected them, most recently on Good Morning Britain during Cleft Lip and Palate Awareness Week. They explained how difficult teenage years in particular could be, and the need for psychological support for families as well as for children.
With one in 700 babies born with a cleft, there were thousands more families like the Vordermans left in need of support. The Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA) was set up in 1979 by families and health professionals to support people affected by cleft all over the UK, and advocate for better care. This small group of dedicated volunteers has since grown into a national charity offering support from diagnosis through to adulthood.
This June, CLAPA has celebrated forty years of incredible achievements with interviews and stories from some of those that have made it happen with very limited resources. Local events have taken place around the UK in June to mark this milestone with plenty of families joining in the fun. We knew early on we wanted to hold a special event to thank our founders, but we needed our community’s help to do this on a tight budget.
Trustee Amelia enlisted her close family, with her brother George – a veteran CLAPA fundraiser – arranging for The Breakfast Club in Hoxton to host the event completely free of charge. Their incredibly generous suppliers even provided drinks and canapés! Amelia’s sister Harriet asked her employer, PR Agency Karmarama, to help with designing and printing invitations, as well as printing some huge photos which brought the room to life and now hold pride of place in our small office.
Volunteer photographers and long-time CLAPA Volunteers Ryan Trower and Saff Bham documented the night as old friends reunited and familiar faces gathered to celebrate CLAPA’s past, present and future.
When the time came for speeches, Carol Vorderman spoke about her connection to CLAPA and her delight at witnessing the charity’s ongoing impact on families around the UK. Founding member Michael Mars reminisced about CLAPA’s early years and the huge changes we’ve been a part of since. Craniofacial Society President Mechelle Collard gave her view of CLAPA’s impact by sharing the thoughts of her Cleft Team in South Wales. A theme in both of these talks was about the unique collaboration CLAPA fosters between families and clinicians, and how central this is to CLAPA’s success in advocating for the needs of families and safeguarding the future of services. Finally, 17-year-old Children & Young People’s Council (CYPC) member Claudia told her story and explained the difference CLAPA had made in the lives of her and her peers.
Carol Vorderman ended the speeches by leading the room in a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ before cutting into a delicious vegan and gluten-free cake supplied by the Glitterbug Bakery.
CLAPA would like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who made this event possible, from the wonderfully generous suppliers to all those that joined with us to celebrate. In looking ahead to what the future holds, we’d like to share with you this quote from our recent interview with CLAPA’s first CEO, Gareth Davies:
“What’s important is to recognise what it takes to help a child born with a cleft thrive. When groups of different people work together, including clinicians, everyone is part of the Cleft Team. That’s what will carry us forward into the next 40 years.”
Bonus: Carol Vorderman sings ‘Happy Birthday’ to CLAPA at The Breakfast Club