Orla and the fantastic fundraisers

girl walking in park
Orla Rawlinson

Brixton resident Orla Rawlinson, who turns four next week, is one of a team of 15 South London children, aged from two to nine, who are going to walk, run, cycle, scoot, climb, swim and buggy 300 miles between them to raise much-needed funds for a local charity, Down’s South London.

Down’s South London (DSL) was founded in 1998 and provides vital and free services to children with Down’s Syndrome and their families in South London.

They can access a unique package of early intervention speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy from a team of highly skilled therapists with specialist knowledge.

Gün Akyuz, chair of DSL, said: “The charity’s trustees took the decision to act early before the pandemic took hold, switching its service online to protect the families involved and enable them to continue accessing their vital therapy.

“DSL’s therapists have been outstanding. They quickly adapted the therapy service to work over Zoom, and it has been amazingly successful, drawing nothing but praise from parents while other therapies provided in school or by the NHS had in many cases stopped completely.

“But this year our donations have fallen by more than 50%, and we’ve been hit like much of the charity sector.

“The pandemic has prevented us from organising our usual fundraisers, and our fantastic families have once again stepped up to safeguard their much-loved therapy.

“We are beyond proud of the 15 youngsters and their families for taking on this amazing challenge.”

Orla’s parents Mariam and Kent say DSL is “a wonderful organisation. We are so lucky to have access to such highly specialist therapists at Down’s South London.

“They go above and beyond the therapy sessions too, by sharing their expertise and experience of every aspect of life with a child with Down’s Syndrome. We don’t know what we would do without them.

“We have organised this Kids Challenge to fundraise for the charity,” said Mariam.

Children from Herne Hill, Streatham, Denmark Hill, Tooting and Lewisham will be joining Orla to make up the 300 miles.

Orla will start the month-long challenge, during which she will need to cover 20 miles, tomorrow (17 October) with a walk around Brockwell Park.

This physical challenge is particularly demanding for Orla and her companions, as children with Down’s Syndrome typically have some level of hypotonia, or low muscle tone, which for many means it has taken longer to learn to walk than it would for a typically developing child.

The group will be sharing their progress on Instagram

Donations can be made via the team’s Virgin Money Giving page.