Gosport charity Marvels & Meltdowns back on their feet at grand re-launch after co-founder betrayal

Marvels & Meltdowns in Gosport has just undergone a huge revamp following a turbulent few years, and they are finally ready to welcome back families in need.

By Hollie Busby
Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 11:11 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th February 2022, 11:11 am

Based at Phoenix Way, the centre helps families who have children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism.

They officially launched as a registered charity in November 2015. Before that, they operated as a support group for parents and children experiencing the same difficulties as owner, Shandrika Day, had with her ADHD-diagnosed son.

Last Monday, as part of their grand reopening, they shared the fantastic news of their re-launch within the community, inviting people from far and wide who had contributed to the centre’s success over the years through funding, work and promoting their cause on social media.

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Shandrika Day, Founder of Marvels and Meltdowns and Nikki Martin, Centre Manager celebrate the opening of their new centre on Monday morning in Gosport. Photos by Alex Shute

The newly refurbished centre was once a ‘shell’ according to Shandrika, as she recalls the time Gosport Borough Council informed her that the space was available.

‘It needed an awful lot of updating and general hard graft to get it into the state that it's in now,’ she says. ‘But we knew that it had an abundance of potential. We knew that we had to make it something incredible for our children, which obviously we've done.’

The charity’s new home houses a main space for families who just want to see a friendly face, a small community kitchen that offers refreshments, a meeting room which can be hired out for groups, workshops and organisations as well as a separate safe space for visitors who would like to seek private advice from the centre’s volunteers.

Fareham charity, The Eight Foundation, has funded a sensory room too which can be hired by families during opening hours and will be a huge help for an ADHD child, as processing what’s happening in the world around them can sometimes get too much, so this offers a much-needed escape.

Trustee Becky Ebsworth celebrates the opening of the new Marvels and Meltdowns centre, including a new Sensory Room on Monday morning in Gosport. Photos by Alex Shute

The services they provide are vital. They say they are the only family centre in the wider Portsmouth area to cater for families who have children with ADHD, autism or a combination of the two.

When parents make that first big step to addressing their child’s needs, they can often be referred to a mental health hub called Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

From there - if the child is showing signs of either condition, that child is often signposted to the Marvels & Meltdowns family centre.

However, reaching the opening stage that they are at now has been immensely tough considering the struggles of the past year.

Volunteers Layla Churcher and Ria Watch prepare food for their visitors in the newly fitted kitchen within Marvels and Meltdowns which celebrated their opening on Monday morning in Gosport. Photos by Alex Shute

In September 2021, it was revealed that the charity’s co-founder and treasurer, Tricia Lyons, had secretly siphoned more than £4,000 from funds meant to help children with autism and ADHD.

Shandrika and her hard-working team of volunteers were devastated. She says: ‘Initially, the whole team were heartbroken.

‘I don't think there's another way to describe it. Heartbroken on a personal level and a professional level that someone we felt so highly of could do such a thing.

‘When we found out (and obviously this was going through the police), the police officer asked me whether I'd be able to continue.

‘The only answer I had was, “it's not an option not to”. It wasn't an option to give up because the support needed in the community is far too great and, well, here we are today.’

When Shandrika first came up with the idea of launching Marvels & Meltdowns seven years ago, it was through her own experience that she knew there must be other families facing the same difficulties.

‘When I was going through the ADHD assessment process with my son several years ago, there was no support locally.

‘I was in my local children's centre after a really tricky morning chatting with the central nursery manager and they had no answers for me when I asked what support was available.

‘They couldn't signpost me anywhere and one of them said to me, "why don't you start your own group?"

‘And the seed was planted. Although at that specific moment I didn't feel I had the strength in me to do it, I realised later that I did.’

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The waiting time to get a diagnosis for a child with ADHD can be agonising for a family, and it brings with it a huge mental toll. But a child or young adult does not need a diagnosis to come here and families are welcomed with open arms from anywhere in the country.

‘It's not a postcode lottery,’ Shandrika explains. ‘If someone wanted to jump in their car and travel down the motorway and come to us to access our parent and carer support group or our activities in the school holidays they'd be most welcome.

‘Sometimes all a parent needs is a cup of tea and a friendly face. It’s somewhere to listen to somebody who understands exactly what they're talking about and just gets it and lets a child be free. It puts a virtual arm around them to say, "we're in this together".

As a parent with a 14-year-old son with the condition, Shandrika knows all too well how isolating it can be.

Symptoms of ADHD and autism widely vary from person to person, but it often includes excessive physical movement, an inability to concentrate and acting on impulse.

‘You're constantly being judged by your child's behaviours.

‘To be on the outside looking in, many of our children will just look like they are being disruptive. People would say, "why can't they just control their child?"

‘But that child is trying to tell you that they're trying to communicate in the world around them and they need your support and understanding. There is still a lot of judgement and a lack of understanding.

‘But we're here to try and break down those barriers and encourage people to try and support a bit more.’

It’s been a long road to get to reach the security Shandrika and the team have dreamt of. And after the betrayal by the charity’s co-founder it was a deserved outcome that the whole team are glad to put into practice.

‘I'm extremely grateful that the team have stuck by me over these last couple of years because it was a bit of a turbulent time. We’re just like extended family and if there wasn't a need for us in the community we wouldn't be here. But there is. Marvels & Meltdowns is a lifeline.’

Marvels’ family centre is open Monday to Thursday 9.30am-2pm.

A parent/carer support group meets on Friday mornings 9.30-11.30am.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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