Although our outings have been running for very many years (82 to be precise), it is incredible how much excitement, passion and enthusiasm the Southend outing still produces. It was, therefore, no surprise that when the big day arrived on Tuesday 13th July 2010, so many dedicated drivers and helpers turned up at east London’s Victoria Park determined to make sure that 300 ‘special needs’ and disadvantaged children had a great day and that is exactly what they had. It was a brilliant outing and we can’t thank them enough for making the day possible, as without them these outings just could not take place.
We are also deeply grateful to Miss Ballooniverse, Blanco the Clown and Misiz and Clown Jolly Jack, who not only kept the children amused in the park, but came to Southend with us entertaining the children all day. Nintendo’s lovable characters Mario and Luigi were also on hand to mix and mingle with the children and we thank Nintendo very much for their support. Also there to meet the children were the Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Anna Lynch, the Lady Mayoress of the Corporation of the City of London, Mrs Claire Anstee, Mr Peter Cook, the Sheriff of the City of London, Mrs Julie Cook and The Master Elect of the Tin Plate Workers, Mr Maurice Avent and we appreciate them all giving up their valuable time to be with us.
The 100 yellow and blue balloon decorated taxis departed at 10am carrying their very special little passengers and with horns blaring and lights flashing we started our journey, with many people lining to the streets to wave us on our way. We were extremely lucky to have with us the excellent City of London Police Escort Team, consisting of Jack Warner and Tracey in the Police Car and seven outriders ‘nick named’ Guy, JJ, Buzz, Face, Rob, Howard and Sonic and we are deeply grateful to them for doing such a tremendous job helping us keep safe. We all felt like Royalty and the speed in which they got us there and back was just amazing! We are also grateful to the RAC and St John’s Ambulance for coming with us and for all the help and support they give us.
A ‘wee’ stop was made half way at the Live (Palms) Hotel in Hornchurch and we are deeply grateful to the Management and Staff for the refreshments they provided. We were delighted to be greeted there by the Mayor of Havering, Councillor Pam Light and the Mayor Consort, Terry Light and we thank them for taking the time out of their busy schedule to be with us. At 12.30pm the convoy finally arrived at the Cliffs Pavilion, Southend where Sarah as Snow White, Southend FC’s mascot Elvis J Eel, Salvo the Clown, Blanco the Clown and Misiz and Clown Jolly Jack were all outside to greet the children, with Balloonists Tony Hanscombe and Miss Ballooniverse providing the children with lots of amazing balloons. After a welcoming speech from the Fund’s Hon. Chairman, David Lessman, lunch was hastily consumed and the children were then ferried down to Adventure Island on the seafront. Here we must thank Brian Houssart MBE, Hon President of the Southend Taxi Charity Fund for Children, for his assistance in providing an extra mini bus to ferry us down to Adventure Island and back. It was a dry and dull afternoon, but the lack of sunshine was replaced by the warmth coming from the smiles on the children’s faces, as they were having an incredible time on all the free rides on offer and all that could be heard were squeals of delight.
At 4.30pm it was back to the Cliffs Pavilion for a tea and disco and Hon Chairman, David Lessman, was delighted to welcome the Mayor of Southend, Councillor Ann Holland and thanked her for coming. They both then presented the winner of the best decorated taxi, Taxi No. 80, Anton Haynes, with the Terry Stapleton Memorial Rose Bowl and a Bottle of Champagne and Anton’s helper received a box of chocolates. The runner up, Taxi No. 45, Steve Pullen, was then presented with the Peter Lucas Shield and a Bottle of Champagne, with a box of chocolates going to his helper. (Here I must mention that before the presentation, driver Steven Bell and his wife Wendy, said they would decline from winning any trophy, as they had been winners for the past few years and wanted someone else to win) – thanks Steve. This year Steve’s taxi had been transformed, with permission, into a white City Police Car, with a blue flashing light on top, and was brilliant, with Steve, Wendy and their little passengers all wearing Police helmets- great! Another prize was on offer, as all the drivers’ names had been put into a box with a chance to win a prize and the lucky winner was Taxi No. 42, Samantha Coates, who was presented with a voucher for an overnight stay and breakfast at the Connaught Hotel, London, W1.
With all the formalities over, it was now time for DJ Dave Davies to commence with the disco and the children and drivers crowded on to the dance floor. We were very lucky to have found two local facepainters and we are deeply grateful to Jackie Tomlinson of Jackie’s Face Painting and Donna Trussler of Dazzle Me Faces, both from Benfleet, who worked tirelessly painting the children’s faces, with a never ending queue. We also thank local magician Ryan Sholem, who won the children over with his great magic and also thank Alan Jones of the Southend Carnival Court for bringing the Southend Carnival Queen and two Princesses to join us. They were really lovely girls and the children adored dancing and having photos taken with them.
The day just kept getting better and we were thrilled and delighted to have a surprise guest join us, Maisie Smith who plays Tiffany in the number one soap ‘Eastenders’. Maisie was on her way to a school show and had popped into the Cliffs Pavilion for a drink with her family. We spotted her and invited her in to meet the children, which she gladly did. She could only stay for a short time, but she said she had a fantastic time. Maisie said it was wonderful to meet the children and hoped they all really enjoyed the day. How fantastic, what a thrill for the children and what a great surprise.
At 6pm a cleverly planned giant conga led the children out of the hall, where before leaving they were each given books and animal key rings. Sticks of rock were also handed to each child and these had been kindly donated by Southend’s Paul Van Looey and we are deeply grateful to him. The very tired and weary convoy arrived back at Victoria Park about 8.30pm and after delivering the children back into safe hands, we all left for home feeling very tired, but highly rewarded and happy that another brilliant and successful outing had taken place. I had the pleasure of driving the lovely Miss Ballooniverse and her husband in my taxi and at the end of the day they said “we have been totally overwhelmed by the whole day and if we feel like this as adults, how must the children feel?”.
Special thanks must go to the Staff and Management at Victoria Park, the Live (Palms) Hotel, the Cliffs Pavilion and Adventure Island; also to the City of London Police Escort team, St John’s Ambulance, RAC, London Communications, DJ Dave Davies, Kulsom and Cathy at Costco, Chingford, Paul Van Looey, Alan Jones and the Southend Carnival Court, Brian Houssart MBE, Miss Ballooniverse, Balloonist Tony Hanscombe, Salvo the Clown, Blanco the Clown and Misiz, Clown Jolly Jack, Magician Ryan Sholem, Sarah (Snow White), Ben of Southend FC, Nintendo, Facepainters Jackie Tomlinson and Donna Trussler and all our generous Sponsors. (All the drivers were given diesel vouchers, which had been donated by an anonymous donor).
We sincerely apologise to anyone who we might have omitted in error.
Last, but definitely not least, the Hon President, Hon Chairman and Committee are deeply grateful to all the brilliant drivers and helpers who made this day possible. What a wonderful crowd of guys and girls they were, making every effort to ensure the children had a wonderful fun packed day. Our motto is “None Walks So Tall as He Who Stoops to Help a Child” and what Tall People you all are. The Committee are also to be highly commended for their skills in running this huge outing so smoothly. No wonder we all look forward to this Southend trip so much- can’t wait for the next one!