Fundraising for Headway Essex

Fundraising for Headway Essex

Headway Essex relies on fundraising to provide vital services to brain injury survivors and their families. Hosting your own fundraising event can be a fun and very rewarding thing to do and we are very grateful to the people who give up their time to raise money in this way. There are many different ways people can do this and there is more information on this in our fundraising guide. We are always happy to discuss fundraising ideas with supporters and provide promotional materials for the event.

Connection with Headway Essex

It is very heart-warming when someone who has received help from Headway Essex, decides that they want to give something back.

Recently Sophie Headford, who hosts a dance event each year, contacted us to say this year, she had decided to donate the profits of her event to Headway Essex.

Sophie said “My Mum had a static brain haemorrhage brought on by a direct blow to the head after she fell at Leigh tip 5 years ago. This was a life changing injury for her and had life changing consequences for me and my family.”

“I was given Headway Essex phone number early on during the 18 weeks my mum spent in Southend hospital. At that time I wasn’t sure how they were going to be able to help me. It felt as though my whole world had collapsed and would never be the same again. I did however call one day, when I was very low and spoke to a girl called Emma. I cried a lot and we talked a lot and she called me every week to see how I was coping and how my mum was getting on. It was really good to talk and I really appreciated the support Headway Essex provided at this devastating time.”

“Sadly, Mum passed away in September 2019 as a result of numerous strokes and vascular dementia caused by the accident.”

Sophie’s Dance Event

“Every year for the last 12 years I have organised a fundraising evening for numerous local charities. I had been a professional dancer in my younger years and taught dance to adults for the last 20 years. ‘Delusion’ the dance troupe came about 15 years ago and we are a group of 8-12 women who love to dance.”

“The evening was a wonderful tribute to my Mum and a fundraiser for Headway Essex. It was a great night full of singers, musicians, comedy and magic and together we raised £1740. I am proud of what we achieve and know this money will go towards helping another family who may need Headway’s support.”

Get Involved

If you want to host an event, or fundraise for Headway Essex, we would love to hear from you. You can e-mail fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or phone 01206 845945 (option 5).

A Long Road to Recovery

A Long Road to Recovery

Merita Isufi’s life changed forever, following a tragic car accident on 4th July 2014. Merita and her son survived the accident, but tragically, her husband and 2 other children did not. Coping with such a devastating loss is more than most of us would have to bear in a lifetime, but Merita was also left with a brain injury and the struggle of a long journey of rehabilitation ahead.

Rehabilitation Support at the Headway Centre

As part of her rehabilitation, Merita now attends the Headway Centre in Colchester. One of the activities available to people who attend the Headway Centre is trampolining. At these sessions trained therapists provide a specialist programme and support, which is suitable for people of all abilities and is a great benefit to the more severely disabled. In addition to improved fitness, muscle and core strength, trampolining sessions have other benefits, such as, improved confidence, improved ability to follow instructions, improved/maintained mental health and reduced stress levels.

Positive Progress through Trampolining Sessions

Recently we sat down to speak to Meritas and her carer Andreea. Andreea has been Meritas carer since April 2018 and in that time they have formed an incredible bond. Andreea told us about how far Merita has progressed since she has been working with her. “We do 2 trampolining sessions a week, the consistency of which I think really helps Meritas progression (along with her determination of course). She also goes to the gym three times a week and attends the Headway Essex day centre two days a week.”

Paul, one of the Headway Centre care officers commented on the progress Merita has made “Merita has come so far on her journey since the accident. When she first came to us at Headway Essex she had to have two people to help her walk. Now she is able to walk independently with a carer nearby.” Meritas progression has a lot to do with her trampolining sessions as the balance and coordination she needs for this really help with her being able to walk independently.

Exceeding Expectations

Merita has continued to exceed everyone’s expectations as she has recently been awarded two awards for her trampolining progress. On the 29th June 2019, she was awarded 3rd place with the Tiegan Rose Cup and on the 12th July 2019 Merita was awarded with an independent jumping award. Merita told us how “amazing” trampolining makes her feel.

Paul went on to tell us “every time Merita is set a goal in her trampolining sessions, she achieves it extremely quickly. A couple of weeks ago we set her a goal to jump independently to reach by Christmas this year and she’s already achieved it. The progression and determination Merita shows is truly unbelievable”.

We are all very proud of Merita at Headway Essex and we are looking forward to seeing the further progression she makes.


If you would like more information on Headway Essex services and how we can help you, please get in touch on 01206 845945.

Returning to Work After a Brain Injury

Returning to Work After a Brain Injury

Following even a mild brain injury, daily life can be affected, including employment. Common hidden affects can be fatigue, short-term memory issues and unable to work in a noisy environment. This means, people may be unable to do the job that they once did in the same way, or may no longer be able to do it safely.

Returning to a familiar workplace

This does not have to mean they are no longer able to work, but may mean they need adaptations to their workplace, or a different role.

Ideally, it is better to return to a job you know well rather than to try a new job as familiarity of the role, colleagues and the working environment can all be helpful.

Helping with the Transition

Although the employee does not have to disclose or give details of their brain injury to their employer, it might be useful to help with the transition.

Depending on how the individual is affected, some ideas that the employer and employee should consider are:

  • Gradual return e.g. two or three mornings a week or working from home initially
  • Returning with shorter hours
  • Allowing more breaks through the day
  • Returning with less workload
  • Taking up a different role

Supportive Employers

We were please to read a recent press article where Nottingham-based civil and electrical engineering firm McCann, supported a colleague to return to work after a stroke and heart surgery. The full article can be read here.

For more information on this topic, can be found in the Headway Information Library on our website

Ben Wilson tells us his story

“You would never think about taking your laptop about without putting it in a case. Why would you not do the same for your own brain – the most precious computer you will ever own and for which there are no spare parts?”

This is a quote that Ben Wilson, one of our clients at Headway Essex, feels very strongly about following his accident. Here, he tells us his story and how it has affected his life.

My name is Ben and I am 23 years old. I was just 20 years old when I had an accident that changed my life forever.

The Accident

On the morning of the 22nd August 2017, I was driving to Stansted airport to meet some friends to go on a free running holiday (which was one of my many hobbies at the time). I was driving too fast and at 5:12am my car hit a tree and I was found 52 minutes later by a passer-by named Dave Baker. I’ve met him since and he is a great guy.
I was away from home for 144 days in total during my recovery. At first I was taken to Broomfield hospital, from there I was transferred to Addenbrookes where I stayed for 60 days. Finally I spent 12 weeks at Fen House (a neuro-rehabilitation centre) before heading home.

My Physical Injuries

The consultants told me I’d never walk or talk again. My crash caused me to break 2 parts of my skull and shatter my left eye socket which has given me double vision when I look right and down. It gets very frustrating however it’s slowly getting better. I also broke my lower spine in 3 places (L2, L3 and L5), I broke my right leg and I broke my right arm which they didn’t find out until 6 weeks later as the full body scan missed it due to the larger bone covering the broken smaller bone underneath.

The Hidden Injuries

Hidden injuries remain long after the physical wounds heal. Due to stopping so fast I got a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The effects of my Brain Injury, a year after my accident, are that my personality has changed. My family and friends have had to adjust to this, as have I. I also find it hard to feel emotion now; however, I don’t get nervous anymore like I did before my accident.
Fatigue, not tiredness, but real fatigue is a problem, as my brain has to use other pathways to get a job done, so its energy drains quickly. I also struggle with my short-term memory, which is annoying but I now use my phone to remind me of everything. I also lost my sense of smell which I miss because you don’t realise how much you use smell every day. At least I can still taste food! These may sound like silly little things but all together, they make me a very different person and I have a very different life from where a 23 year old normally is in life.

How My Life Has Changed

I am more dependent on my family than I was before my brain injury. When I first got back home, I was very reliant on people for help and reminders which they wrote onto a weekly timetable. I’m not yet able to return to work and I lost my driving licence because of my brain injury. I’ve noticed that people who were friends are now acquaintances and just people I know. I only now have one real friend so that is a big change as I feel isolated and alone unless I’m at Headway Essex.

How Headway Essex Helped Me

Headway Essex have helped me with understanding my personality and attitude towards other people.
A group of us who met through Headway meet socially and we all talk and get along well, it’s a great group! We understand the issues we face on a daily basis and all learn from each other, which is extremely helpful.
Headway Essex has helped me with memory aids and now I am no longer dependent on my family to remind me of things. I use my smart phone calendar and reminder alerts, notes for shopping and other little lists. I have learnt to put things in obvious places so I see & find them, otherwise I’d lose things and remembering where you last saw it is difficult if you don’t remember recent things clearly.

Set a Positive Goal and Aim for It

Headway Essex understand my goals and help me achieve those successfully using interim goals and actions. I live at home with my parents and I can’t buy my own house, as I’m not earning any money….yet. Therefore, my ultimate goal is to get my driving licence back and return to work. Set a positive goal and aim for it!

3 people smiling standing in front of a wall

How a negative circumstance can influence a positive growth

We had the pleasure of catching up with Vikki Hutt who has two young children and suffered a serious brain injury in January at the age of 45 which, she says has changed her life “for the better”.

Vikki’s accident

On 14th January 2019 Vikki fell down the stairs in her home causing her to be knocked unconscious and leaving her children to call the police.

Billie-Mae, Vikki’s daughter told us “I ran up to my brother shouting ‘Mum’s dead on the floor, I don’t know what to do’”.

Vikki continues “My son Alfie called 999 and had to go outside to guide the ambulance to the house in the dark. I was taken straight to Broomfield’s hospital and referred straight on to Addenbrookes hospital, due to the seriousness of the brain injury. My family were told numerous times that I would never survive, my parents were told to find a care home for me because they thought I would have no memory and be incapable of living a normal life”. Billie-Mae told us how sad this made her and how she thought she would never have the mum she always wished for.

Vikki’s accident caused damage to her right frontal lobe, she broke the base and most of the right hand side of her skull. Vikki also had a subarachnoid haemorrhage and large hematomas on her right hand lower lobe.

Vikki pulled through at Addenbrookes but she was told she wouldn’t be able to walk again. The same day Vikki took her first steps. “It really is a miracle” added Vikki.

Life changed for the better

Before Vikki’s accident, she had a codeine and paracetamol addiction. “I was given painkillers at 18 when I had my back injury. Overtime I increased my dose with everything physically that went wrong.” This made Vikki drowsy all the time and really affected her and her children’s lives.

When Vikki woke up in hospital she was on morphine for the pain in her bones however after that Vikki refused all pain medication from the hospital because she was determined to turn her life around. “The nurses said how proud they were of me. They said I had done what none of their other patients could do”.

Vikki’s brother in law was one of many family members to visit her in the hospital. “When I first became conscious he said to me ‘Vikki this is the best conversation I’ve had with you for years, you need to stay like this’ and that’s what gave me the buzz to think I can recover and change my life around”. Vikki’s relationships with her entire family have dramatically improved since her recovery.

Billie Mae added “when I found out my mum was refusing the pills I thought I might have a chance to have the mummy I’ve always been wishing for”.

Life has completely changed for Vikki since the accident. She told us “I’m a different person to what I was before. I’m the mum that my kids have always wanted. Everything’s worth it. Having my two children is worth more than gold itself”.

Looking to the future

The recovery process at home was incredibly fast for Vikki. “I was told by a neurologist that I’m only the third person in the UK to recover to the level I have in this short space of time.” Vikki’s family were told to expect the worst so this is an incredible outcome for her and her family.

Personal goals for Vikki’s future include going back to work as a nurse as well as raising awareness for prescription drug addiction and helping people who are struggling as she was. Vikki already had 2 degrees, one in palliative care (end of life care) and another in oncology (cancer care) however she would like to do a PHD.

Vikki’s children also have bright futures ahead of them. Billy Mae hopes to become a dog handler for the police force and already has a place to spend an experience day with as fully qualified dog handler.

14 year old Alfie’s life and goals for the future have also changed since his mum’s accident. “The police have offered Alfie work experience as after my accident he decided that that is what he wants to do so he can help others also going through traumatic times. It’s completely changed his perspective and he’s actually done some research and decided that’s what he wants to do” Vikki told us.

This has been a traumatic time for Vikki and her family however they have come through as a family and are on the path to a happier and better life.

If you would like to share your story or contribute to our blog and newsletter, we would be glad to hear from you. Please contact the fundraising team on 01206 845945 or email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk.

people standing outside a cafe smiling

Headway Essex Carers Week

At Headway Essex, we are here to make sure no one has to face living with an Acquired Brain Injury alone. When someone acquires a brain injury, often a wife, husband, partner or friend, finds himself or herself with an additional role of caring for a loved one. We understand the importance of supporting carers in their roles and during national carers’ week from 10th to 16th June, we try to show our appreciation for the amazing work they do.

Carers Week Brunch

On Friday 14th June, Headway Essex held a carers brunch at the ‘Back to the 60s’ cafe in Colchester. We think it is extremely important to listen to our carers and their stories and for them to gain peer support from other carers who know the problems they are experiencing. Just as importantly, it gives carers a chance to relax, in a social setting and to be themselves rather than someone’s carer.

Bernie and Pauline, two of our carers who attended the brunch, told us ‘the brunch was very enjoyable, it’s good to spend time with people in a similar situation to you in a friendly environment’. ‘It’s good to sit and chat in a social environment about other things as well as our carer roles’.

Another carer who attended said how it was ‘good to talk about the positives and negatives in a group of people who are also in a similar position to you and to get their support and opinion’.

Carers Need Care Too

All our groups are supported by a member of the Headway Essex Community Support Team, who can offer a wide range of support and advice to carers at any stage; from the hospital bedside to many years down the line. Our support worker commented on the event ‘It is nice to be able to look after them for a change and to offer an acknowledgement of the hard work and emotional effort that it takes to be a carer’.

The Headway Essex carers’ brunch is one of the many ways we support our carers, along with regular support groups, a helpline and face to face help and advice. If you would like to know more about Headway Essex’s support for carers, or support for adults with acquired brain injury, you can visit our website, email communitysupport@headwayessex.org.uk, or call 01206 845945.


Bernie and Pauline

Acquired Brain Injury – The Hidden Disability

2018 marks exactly 10 years since Pauline and Bernie’s son, Gary, suffered a traumatic brain injury. The exact date and time, 3 November 2008 9.45pm, will be etched on their minds forever. Gary was loving life and working at a tattoo studio at the time. After work, he left with a colleague to go and see a band play, but the music wasn’t quite to his liking, and so he left early. He was hurrying through the Tottenham Court Road Underground Station when he lost his footing on the stairs and hit his head so hard he was knocked unconscious. A passer-by called for an ambulance.

Emergency Surgery Following Traumatic Brain Injury

Gary was taken directly to The Royal London Hospital where he had to undergo emergency brain surgery to save his life having sustained three blood-clots in his brain. After spending two weeks in a coma, he was gradually woken up. Pauline and Bernie had been told to expect that Gary would have a long road to recovery, but nothing could prepare them for his reaction. “It was terrifying” recalls Pauline. “He was confused, angry, and pulling all his wires out at every opportunity”. In the end, nurses had to restrain Gary to keep him safe. “What I didn’t expect was the regression” adds Pauline. “Gary would plead with me to take him home and would say ‘I’ll be a good boy, mum’, when he was 40 year-old man living independently”.

Getting Back to Independent Living

As part of his recovery and to prepare him for independent living, Gary was transferred to the Blackheath Brain Injury Rehabilitation Centre. It was a long road to recovery and took 10 months to return home. In the last month at BlackHeath, Gary lived in an independent flat. Here he had an almost deadly accident. He put a microwave meal on the length of time required for oven cooking and set fire to his flat. “Even to this day, he doesn’t remember the incident” says Pauline.

Perception of Danger

“He also doesn’t see danger” adds Pauline. He once turned up his local Headway meeting with a Viking sword to show fellow clients and he simply didn’t see the risk. “Once, we went up town and I noticed he was bleeding”, adds Pauline. Gary had accidentally cut the top of his finger off, but didn’t think to say anything to her even though it was a very deep cut. People also do not ‘see’ his brain injury. “Gary has some tattoos. People automatically make a judgment. They might think he is drunk or on drugs or that he has mental health issues. Nobody thinks ‘acquired brain injury’. It’s a hidden disability” adds Pauline.


It’s also very lonely. Gary is not the same person he was before his acquiring a brain injury. “Understandably, his friends found it difficult to relate to him and they gradually stopped seeing him. But when a person changes in such a big way, you can’t blame people for not being able to connect anymore”, says Bernie. “He also struggles to make new friends. His brother takes him shopping every Saturday and two Headway volunteers visit him each week, but other than that he doesn’t socialise”, says Pauline. Now, Pauline and Bernie take it in turns once a week to make the 120 mile round-trip by public transport to visit Gary and make sure he is ok.

Carer Support At Headway Essex


Life’s still very much a roller-coaster for Pauline and Bernie as well as Gary. But, as carers, they have found a great deal of support through Headway Essex. They were already familiar with Headway, as Gary has received support from Headway East London, so they reached out to Headway Essex. They’ve been accessing Headway Essex’s community support for several years now and find attending a Carers Support Group immensely beneficial. “Having other people to talk to who are caring for a loved one with a brain injury means you feel much less alone. They understand and you can speak freely about your challenges and frustrations as a carer”, says Pauline. “I would give Headway Essex 10 out of 10; it’s superb. If we hadn’t have got in contact we would have been very stuck. Not just with the emotional weight of things, but with all the complex paperwork that comes with caring” adds Bernie.


Being a carer and friend of Headway Essex for many years, Pauline now volunteers her time and helps at Support Groups where both clients and carers are in attendance. “I love volunteering at the groups. I feel part of something really important. Not only am I helping Headway Essex, I have a much clearer understanding on what it is like to be the person living with acquired brain injury. I know first-hand what it means to be a carer, but it’s really useful to learn more about the struggles clients have to contend with and the coping strategies they have in place to help them.”


Thank you Pauline and Bernie for taking the time to talk to us and sharing your moving story.

If you would like to share your story or contribute to a blog, please contact Molly Harmon on 01206 845945 or email molly.harmon@headwayessex.org.uk.


Small Charity Week Poster

Small Charity Week – Help Headway Essex!

Do you have and use social media? Do you love Headway Essex? From the 17th to the 22nd June we have an opportunity to not only raise awareness for Headway Essex but also win donations! If you love Headway Essex and want to help us win the Small Charity Week competition, DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE HERE.

How to help Headway Essex WIN the competition

The charity which manages to get the most individual messages of support on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook from June 17th -22nd June will receive a donation of £150.

Post a picture of you holding a sign saying “I love Headway Essex because (……enter your reason here…..)”. DOWNLOAD THE TEMPLATE HERE.

If you want to help but don’t have social media send your pictures to fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk and we can post them to help us win the competition.

Competition rules

The Twitter Competition

Tweet your photo message, or if you don’t have a camera, your message of love in less than 280 characters, making sure you include the @headwayessex and the #ILoveSmallCharities hashtag. You must also mention @SCWeek2019 in your tweet so all of our entries are acknowledged and counted.

The Facebook Competition

Post your photo message, or if you don’t have a camera, your message of love, to the Small Charity Week Facebook wall, making sure you include @headway.essex name and the #ILoveSmallCharities hashtag.

The Instagram Competition

Post your photo message to your Instagram account, making sure you tag @headwayessex and use the #ILoveSmallCharities hashtag. You must also tag @SmallCharityWeek in your photo so all of our entries are acknowledged and counted.

(Entries will only count if posted between 17th – 22nd June and only one message is to be submitted for each competition per person. You are welcome to enter all across all three platforms (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) with your message).

Together we can help Headway Essex win!

For more information please don’t hesitate to call our fundraising team on 01206 845945 or email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk.

colour 5k

Colour5K running tips for beginners

With only weeks to go until the Headway Essex Colour5K (29 June to be precise!) we appreciate that the Colour5K could be the first time you’ve run 5km in a while or ever! So, we’ve pulled together a few handy tips to help you prepare.

Getting you started

Don’t worry about how fast you can run; just remember the Colour5K is all about having fun with colour!
But, if you are looking to improve your endurance, you’ll need to build on your aerobic base first. We’re quite a fan of the NHS Couch to 5K plan, which is great run/walk routine that gradually builds-up your ability to run a 5K. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never run before or if you just want to become more active, the plan is a free and easy way of preparing ahead of the day!

You could also participate in your local parkrun, these are free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the country. For example, there’s a great one at Colchester Castle Park. As with the Colour5K, everyone is encouraged to join in and run at their own pace. You will need to register first though at http://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/form/

Your pre-Colour5K routine

On the day itself, Personal Trainer Matt Brinkley, will be leading all our wonderful Colour5K participants through a good warm-up routine. But, in preparing to run 5K ahead of the event, what warm-up exercises should you be introducing?
You’ll want to start introducing dynamic stretches before you run, including walking lunges, high knees to chest and straight-leg kicks to really stretch those hamstrings. Why is this so important? Well, it can significantly reduce the likelihood of an injury and strengthen your muscles. Stretching should last for around 10 minutes, after which you can either start with a brisk walk or a comfortable jogging pace, depending on your current fitness level.
Of course, you might want to walk the Colour5K, which is absolutely fine, but you’ll still want to do some stretching before you set off!
Don’t forget, it’s equally as important to stretch after your run. This NHS blog on how to stretch after a run has some fantastic images to show you how to do each stretch.

Buying the right gear

If you’re not a regular runner, you could always borrow some running gear, or just wear some loose cotton shorts or trousers and trainers.
Don’t forget though, at the Colour5K, you’ll get absolutely covered in coloured powder paint! But, no need to worry, as we provide a bright white Colour5K T-Shirt (in a variety of sizes) that’s waiting to be showered in colour! And best of all, it’s yours to keep…
The best tip of all though, is to enjoy it! We look forward to seeing you there and giving you your vibrant Colour5K medal as you cross the finish line.

If you haven’t already booked your place, register today at www.colour5k.co.uk

tony emms blog

The Colour5K, an event not to be missed!

The Colour5K, an event not to be missed!


For the 7th year in a row Headway Essex will be hosting the Colour5K on Saturday 29th June 2019. This year we are thrilled to have Attwells Solicitors as our event sponsor.

Whether you’re a casual walker or regular runner, want some fun or just want to raise money for charity, you will love this event. Runners come from all different backgrounds and have one thing in common; they love fun!

If running is not for you but you would still like to participate, you can register to become a colour bandit and take on the role of throwing paint at your friends and family.

The Colour5K experience

We spoke to Tony Emms, a trustee of Headway Essex and his daughter Paris, who have been taking part in the Colour5K for several years, about their experience of this event and how they’re preparing for this year.

Tony, who has been running for over 15 years, discovered Headway Essex through taking part in our Colour5K, after his brain operation in 2013. He initially volunteered for Headway Essex in 2015 and just a year later became a trustee. Tony told us what a fun event it is to be involved with. ‘One of our friends came and pushed her baby around in a pram all day just to be a part of this fantastic event!’ Paris added ‘it’s also great to do the Colour5K with friends and family, we always have such a good time and make sure to get plenty of photos on the day.’

We like to ensure our events are unique and memorable for everyone involved, Paris told us how much she ‘loves getting covered in coloured paint, it’s great fun’. Tony added ‘the paint throwing is fun and gives the run another dimension. You look forward to getting round to the next paint colour which are placed at every kilometer.’

Paris spoke to us about how she took part in the London Marathon this year too. ‘The Colour5K will be a great way for me to continue my running with my friends and family and have lots of fun doing it. I would like to try and improve my time for running a 5 kilometer distance and the Colour5K is a great place to start.’ Tony added ‘Paris has inspired me massively by completing the London Marathon so much so that I have applied for next year’s race, we are very proud of her.’

Raise money for a charity close to your heart

The Colour5K is also a great opportunity to raise money for charity. You can have a phenomenal day out participating in Headway Essex’s event and raise money for a charity close to your heart. Paris told us ‘my Dad and I have had fundraising pages before however our styles are slightly different! I used Justgiving and would share it on my Facebook page whereas Dad will email his contacts to let them know. It’s all raising money for a worthy local cause so it’s great we use multiple platforms. Our friends and family are very supportive which is great and there is a clear link to Headway Essex for me through my Dad being a trustee of the charity.’

Book your place

The Colour5K is a great event and one not to be missed. To book your place as a runner or as a colour bandit (and shower your friends and family with colour) visit www.colour5k.co.uk to sign up. If you would like further information on this event please email fundraising@headwayessex.org.uk or call 01206 547616.

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