Celebrate Chat Co-Production Learning Disabilities & Autism

Racing to keep up with Rita

Rita Barker-Lyon

Introducing… Rita Barker-Lyon

Each month we feature an inspirational individual or team who are taking a lead in their lives and helping make society better for everyone.  This month we feature Rita Barker-Lyon, winner in the Local Communities category in the  Dimensions Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List

 Introducing…Rita Barker-Lyon

Rita is a truly inspirational thirteen-year-old. Rita is a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy and Turner syndrome, but doesn’t let this hold her back from helping others. We gave Rita’s Mum, Bryony, a call to learn more.

Hi Bryony, could you start by telling me a bit about Rita?

Rita and her best friend Rosa enjoying time together

“Rita is just lovely. She’s funny, quick-witted, and incredibly caring.

“I’m a veterinary nurse and Rita has picked up the same aspiration and desire to help animals – and people! She’s always thinking of new ways to support family, friends, and the wider community.

“It’s especially lovely to see how Rita cares for her friends, including Rosa who has Canavan disease. Rita always wants to spend time with Rosa and makes sure Rosa is never left out. Rosa is a previous Leaders List winner and it was actually Rosa’s Mum, Amy, who nominated Rita for this award.

Rita sounds like a very special young lady! Could you tell me a bit more about her fundraising initiatives?

“There’s been so many I really have to think about this!

“For starters, Rita’s school got a new sensory dog called Maui earlier this year. Rita uses a wheelchair as walking is incredibly challenging for her. However, a few months after Maui arrived at the school, Rita undertook a 1000m sponsored walk to raise money for Dogs for Good – the charity that trained Maui.

“In July, Rita was involved in the development of a sensory garden at her school. The garden has raised beds so wheelchair users can grow vegetables, and quiet spaces for students experiencing sensory overload. It really reflects Rita’s passion for inclusivity.

“And I still have two more! In September, Rita worked with our friend and neighbour Jenny to organise a fundraising fair for Whizz-Kidz, the charity that gave Rita her first wheelchair. Her event was so successful she raised over £1300. We’re such an active and sociable family, I think Rita just really appreciated the independence Whizz-Kidz gave her and wanted to pass on that gift to others.

“Lastly, Rita also inspired the development of a new accessible pathway through a local woodland. Her idea was that the path should be available to everyone including people in wheelchairs, mobility scooters, and those with prams and pushchairs.

“The path has recently been completed and now everybody in the community is able to enjoy the beautiful green space. It’s just yet another example of how Rita is constantly thinking about other people.

Wow, Rita’s done so much this year! Is there anything else coming up?

“Rita is always racing ahead and thinking about the next big thing – sometimes it can be hard to keep up with her!

“I know Rita aspires to do a sponsored trip from Land’s End to John o’ Groats. It’s a big dream which will require a lot of hard work and training, but Rita often manages anything she puts her mind to. I’m just so proud of her.”

The Learning Disability and Autism Leaders’ List is produced by Dimensions in partnership with Learning Disability England and VODG.

Visit dimensions-uk.org/leaderslist2021 to meet all the Leaders.

Follow @DimensionsUK and #LDALeadersList to stay up to date.

Edel Harris

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