Charity cafe gets Connor moving

VOLUNTEERS and supporters of a community charity cafe in Speedwell have transformed another life.

The Barton Hill RFC Charity Cafe in Duncombe Lane raised more than £6,300 to pay for a three-wheeled electric wheelchair for teenager Connor Head.

Connor, who is 18 and lives in Patchway, has congenital myotonia, a rare muscle condition which severely impairs movement and affects about one in every 100,000 people worldwide.

To help him get around, the cafe funded a three-wheeled chair with handlebars and controls.

Connor and his family met with charity cafe volunteers and supporters and Taylor Made Wheelchairs, the company which made the chair to order, in February.

Afterwards Connor’s mum Natalie Lupton described the effect it had had on his life.

She said: “Connor has only had his new chair for a couple of weeks.

“He has gone out so many times already, it has enabled him to meet up with his friends and be independent, without the pain and fatigue which comes with his condition.”

Cafe volunteer Mandy Bryant said: “Connor was only too happy to do a demonstration of his new wheels in the car park, for all the cafe friends to enjoy. 

“It is fantastic to see the happiness and difference our cafe makes to someone. 

“It is amazing that we can give Connor so much independence and freedom.

“Taylor Made are a family business and ensure every aspect of their wheelchairs are tailored to users’ specific needs. They are based in the West Midlands, but Chris and Emma came down to visit our cafe and personally deliver the new chair.”

The cafe is open every Monday and Wednesday, from noon until 3pm, and was founded as a friendly, welcoming place for people to meet.

It is staffed and managed entirely by unpaid volunteers, providing cheap food and drink and an atmosphere to encourage good company and conversation.

The cafe collects donations of clothes, books and other items which are sold on ‘bargain tables’ at each session to raise money for each target. Supporters also stage sponsored events.

Since the cafe first opened in 2020 it has helped 19 individual children with disabilities and their families enjoy more freedom by buying specialist mobility equipment, and is currently looking to help three more.

Volunteers have also bought a chair for use at Bristol Children’s Hospital and raised thousands for mental health charity Mind, as well as funding defibrillators and bleed kits.

Last year the cafe volunteers won the community group category at the BBC Radio Bristol Make a Difference Awards, which highlight people who go the extra mile to help others.