By Jeff Campbell, grandfather and member of the Tamar Valley Male Voice Choir
Jeff Campbell and his wife Enid live in South Devon, close to their son Howard and his family. They moved to the area after the birth of Skye, Howard and Rhona’s second child. Skye has Down’s syndrome and Jeff and Enid provide “back up” to the whole family.
Enid and I have three sons and six grandchildren – Molly, Skye, Lewis, Elliot, Amelie and Jude who are equally precious to us and receive our infinite love.
Skye, who has Down’s syndrome, will be thirteen this year. In her early years she suffered a stroke and for these reasons she’ll need extra special help throughout her journey in life. Her parents have done a great job of looking after her, and with support from a team of amazing therapists, teachers, teaching assistants and friends she
is now thriving at school. Although Skye can get a bit frustrated when she tries to speak, she signs and is doing really well at school.
Like me, Skye loves music and singing. Some of her other favourite things are playing hide and seek, sleepovers, birthday parties, pantomime, CBeebies and being the centre of everyone’s attention. When she comes to visit us she loves playing in the park opposite our house as well as with an old vintage Etch-a-Sketch. Skye and her brother and sister all get on very well on the whole and she loves our dogs, Scoot and Wilfy.
Looking after Skye can sometimes be time consuming and what Howard and Rhona have to work out is how much time to devote to her, while making sure that big sister Molly and younger brother Lewis are not feeling neglected. Getting the balance right isn’t easy. It doesn’t mean that Skye has to be wrapped in cotton wool. All the normal family life, fights, squabbles, sulks and falling outs still occur, but for parents, finding the balance can be difficult, especially when one of the children needs extra attention.
When I look around and see the many wonderful people who are involved and are so helpful in Skye’s well-being, I am constantly surprised and eternally grateful. There are so many good, caring people who spend a great deal of time and effort for her benefit. It isn’t easy, believe you me, and sometimes improvements are very slow, but when they do come, they are so rewarding. I know that there are other children out there who have special needs, and if they and their families have the same dedicated support, then they will understand how I feel. All these people are my every day heroes and I can’t thank them enough.
Skye’s teachers say she has a great sense of humour and is a delight to teach…that she has a lovely smile and is funny and caring and likes making her classmates smile and laugh…that she’s really good at getting on with her work and is getting more and more confident.
These are the great things that people say about Skye and this is why we are so very proud of her.
However, we are realistic and realise that she does have special needs and will need support throughout her life. In the future we would love to see her in a job, with a role and a purpose in life and I believe that, with continued good support, Skye is absolutely capable of that.
Jeff has sung with male voice choirs (MVCs) for over thirty years and is passionate about singing and choirs. Several years ago, during a difficult time, Jeff was inspired to write a history of British male voice choirs. The book is a delightful, inspiring tribute and guide to the joy of communal singing and a wonderful introduction to Jeff, his family and fellow singers. His passion for singing and his family shines through on every page. Jeff is selling the book to raise money for a trust fund for Skye.
If you would like to find out more about Jeff, Skye or the history of male voice choirs across Britain, you can purchase a copy of the book for just £11 (including package and posting).