The Willow Trust was set up in 1989 to provide disabled people of all ages and all types of disability or serious illness, a therapeutic day out on the water.
The Trust took delivery of its first boat – Spirit of Freedom II – in 1991, and its second – Leonard Matchan – in 1993. Now, these purpose built canal boats carry over 7,000 disabled and seriously ill children and adults every year, giving them the opportunity to spend a therapeutic day out on the water.
Between April and October, our two boats cruise on the beautiful Gloucester – Sharpness Canal with groups of disabled or seriously ill people on board.
The trips themselves bring much joy and inspiration to the lives of many less able people – somehow, for one day, their pain and disability are forgotten. I myself am a volunteer for the Trust, which is completely self-funded. We rely heavily on fundraising events and donations to keep the boats afloat. We have done all sorts of activities to raise funds including sponsored walks, concerts, golf competitions and Christmas card sales. That’s why, when I heard about the Community Awards, I just had to apply!
The trips are completely free of charge and the guests, especially the children have a day to remember – they can steer the boat, see the wildlife on the canal and wave to passers-by.
One of the main costs we have is actually fuelling the boats. The £5,000 Community Award will allow us to fuel one of the boats every day from April to October – an amount which would take us a long time to raise.
We’re so grateful to the Foundation for this award. This year is particularly special for us as it marks our 25th season of providing relaxing and inspiring days on the waters of the Gloucester – Sharpness Canal. To know that we can continue with our work into our Silver Jubilee thanks to the Foundation is great news for everyone involved.