Thursday, 19 May 2022

Pair in 100-mile Thames paddle for autism charity

Pair in 100-mile Thames paddle for autism charity

A FATHER of a boy with autism plans to kayak 100 miles on the River Thames to raise money for a charity that helped him.

Andrew Huyton, 23, of Park Road, Henley, will be joined by his 13-year-old sister Jessica Martin for the challenge in April.

They will attempt to paddle from Cricklade in north Wiltshire to Henley in five days.

They hope to raise £1,000 for Autism Family Support Oxfordshire, which supports the development and wellbeing of children and young adults on the autism spectrum and their families.

Mr Huyton was “terrified” when his four-year-old son Joey was diagnosed with autism in 2020.

He said: “I was worried that I wouldn’t know how to properly support him or deal with the more challenging times that you can face.

“But knowing that organisations like this are around helped me to calm these feelings and cope much better. I knew that I had somewhere to turn to and people that could help me to better understand Joey and his behaviour so that I could give him the support he deserves.

“Joey is an absolutely amazing young man who, although doesn’t necessarily understand his condition yet due to his age, understands who he is as a person and loves to remind you of this at every opportunity through his depth of love, affection and cheekiness.”

Mr Huyton said he had learned more about the condition with help from his family and support network, which includes Joey’s mother Mayzie James, 23.

“I want to help Joey to reach his full potential,” he said. “I also want to raise awareness of the fact that although autism is now more commonly diagnosed, it doesn’t mean that it is more understood and accepted. We also want to help raise awareness of the charity as, with lockdown, charities have suffered quite badly.”

Mr Huyton, who works in food service, lives with his fiancée Kayleigh Isaac, 22, while Jessica lives at Highlands Park, Henley, and attends Gillotts School.

The pair have been kayaking for fun for almost a year and wanted to do something that would be a challenge but achievable.

Mr Huyton said: “Kayaking is a hobby for us and a way for us to spend time together and have some fun. We don’t live together so it is our little thing.

“We both have a board, which we bought cheaply. Jessica had some lessons a few years ago.

“After Joey’s diagnosis I spoke to Jessica about a fundraiser as he is such a massive part of our lives.

“He’s the inspiration for this and we wanted to do something that will help him.”

On their first day, April 10, they will kayak 23 miles from Cricklade to Radcot, followed by 16 miles from Radcot to Pinkhill Lock on day two, then 22 miles from Pinkhill Lock to Clifton Hampden, 17 miles from Clifton Hampden to Basildon and 22 miles from Basildon to Henley Bridge on the final day.

Each night they will camp, which means they will have to transport their equipment.

Mr Huyton said: “We need additional rigging, lifejackets and bags of air so even if we fall out, the kayak will still float. We need to set the kayaks up with elastic rope for emergency exits.

“We’re hoping to travel for about 10 to 11 hours per day and to finish early on some days so we can have a rest. There are two days where it’s shorter to give us a few extra hours to relax.”

For more information, visit the Facebook page called “Thames source to Henley in a kayak”.

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