Bluestack Special Needs Foundation

December 14 2022

Bluestack Shack Collage

This month we are putting the spotlight on Bluestack Special Needs Foundation in Donegal. We met with CEO Wendy McCarry and spoke to her about the history of the organisation and how one father's walk over the Bluestack Mountains to raise funds for his child led to the extraordinary service that today has an outreach to 423 families! 

Wendy began by sharing the history of the organisation explaining that it all began a charity walk over the Bluestack Mountains initiated by a parent of a child with additional needs.

The foundation arose because of a need for parents to have somewhere to go with their children with additional needs.

Wendy said the foundation is of the community, for the community and down through the years they have never lost sight of this vision.

This has grown into an organisation offering a unique type of respite meeting the exact needs of parents and their children. It has also seen the establishment of the Lámh Choir, a Saturday Club, a Changing Places facility where parents have a key and can drop in any time of the day. They have a 24-hour sensory garden, a School of Rock in which children can learn musical instruments and a programme for young adults. They also have The Bluestack Shack coffee dock on site.

Wendy spoke about her own daughter Ava who has additional needs. Ava is now a young adult and Wendy said that down through the years she has been keenly aware of the differences when it comes to the choices her five children can make. Her sons can go to college, get a job and travel, but her daughter has limited choices. She has day care! Speaking passionately about her daughter Wendy says that Ava deserves better.

Wendy says that while the choices they offer to parents and families is important, it is not what defines the organisation. What defines them is the ability to hear, to really listen and to respond!

Bluestack TeddyShe said it is also vitally important that they remain autonomous as that is what has allowed them to be so responsive to the immediate needs that arise in families.

Wendy goes on to say that children are more than their medical and education needs – they need opportunities and social engagement. She said it is also vitally important to invest in the sibling relationships in a family where there is a child with additional needs. There needs to be a positive sibling relationship so as the continuity of care is there as the child grows up.

Linking in with DFI 

Speaking about how The Bluestack Special Needs Foundation links in with DFI and its Members, Wendy said, “We all have collective responsibility for the disability sector.

“We could not do what we do without opportunities to learn from other organisations. We get so much knowledge, information, innovation and creativity from other organisations from monitoring and watching what they do.

Wendy McCarryWendy continued, “In fairness to DFI they create so many opportunities for us to come together to learn from each other and enable us to network with a whole load of different organisations through the Leadership Network, SGM, AGM and specialist meetings including those with Ministers. We are also brought together by DFI here in Donegal with other groups.

“I believe the sum is greater than the parts. We have a responsibility to change perspectives around disability!”

Click here to listen to Wendy's interview in full.

We also spoke to Wendy about the extra costs of disability and how far the one-off cost of disability payment made in Budget 2023 went in her family.

Watch her short video here

The Bluestack Shack 

Nicole from Bluestack Special NeedsWhile we were with Wendy, she invited us to meet Nicole, one of 26 young adults being supported to move into enterprise training and emplyment.

Nicole works in the Bluestack Shack, a coffee shop on the grounds of the foundation.

Nicole spoke to us about her work and gave us a tour which was topped off by a superb latte and some of the famous Bluestack Shack cakes!

You can watch Nicole's interview here.

Thanks to Bluestack for their warm welcome.