Going to penalties for new ‘PALS’ charity

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 20:27 on 9 July 2015

Broadwood Stadium

Parents Michael-John and Laura are aiming to raise funds for PALS at a special football game, this Sunday. Picture: Scott Campbell. 

MEET the Costello family. Together, mum-of-two Laura and caring father, Michael-John, are aiming to pack out Cumbernauld’s Broadwood Stadium for a special fundraising drive. 

Speaking to Cumbernauld Media’s Scott Campbell, Mrs Costello discussed the lengths to which her and her husband, Michael-John, had gone to in pulling together a special day of frolic, fun and festivities, in the name of charity.

Together with their 4-year-old son Peter and 2-year-old Sean (right), the pair have arranged for a special football match, with all of the proceeds going towards the newly established ‘PALS’ charity, in Cumbernauld.

Founded in January this year, the charity, known affectionately amongst its supporters as ‘PALS’, after its own acronym of Play and Learning Support, the organisation aims to support both children with special needs as well as their parents. 

32-year-old Laura Costello, a primary school teacher from Cumbernauld, as well as her 33-year-old secondary school teacher husband, Michael-John have been making use what they call the “fantastic” activities and services provided by the charity since it was founded, earlier this year.

‘The kids loved it’.

“It was a poster that drew me towards PALS,” Laura explained. “At the time I was part of REACH, a registered charity offering support to children and their families affected by autism, which had been in Cumbernauld for around 18 months, when I spotted a poster with the contact details of Carolyn, one of the founders of PALS on it. 

“I texted Carolyn and came along to one of the activity classes; I loved it, and the kids loved it; our participation in the charity just grew from there,” Laura added.

Showing our reporter the Fundamentals soft play-area inside the Broadwood Gym complex, the mother-of-two explained that the charity’s first activities actually started in the Fundamentals soft play-area.

“PALS is a charity which supports children with special needs. It started in January this year, so it’s still quite new,” Laura described. 

She added: “The story behind the charity is that a woman called Carolyn McNair joined Reach, and when she brought Reach through to Cumbernauld, she chose Fundamentals as the best start-of location: this was the first activity, and soon Carolyn started to get calls from families who had relatives with other special needs, like Down syndrome and Cerebral palsy. 

“Sadly, Carolyn was having to turn them away as Reach was an Autistic-only support charity. Thinking that was unfair, she, Carrie Burns and Mark Smith – who were all part of Reach – decided that it would be good to branch out on their own, and that’s why they started PALS: so that they could open it up to any child with any disability.”

‘Support for parents’.

Running “weekly activities, such as a Thursday night free-play at Fundamentals, where the play-area is opened up to only children from PALS”, the Cumbernauld-based charity offers swimming classes, music tuition, nights for disabled teenagers and a Monday night fun night, not to mention a micro-fitness class “where there is small-sized gym equipment, bouncy castle and other similar equipment,” Mrs Costello said.

“They organise daytrips, cinema trips, and the charity tries to help out by paying for these things, for example, each member family gets one trip to the cinema for free, per year; they’re paying for the whole charity to go to Blairdrummond Safari Park, in the summer, and there’s a parents’ support group as well, because the main part is obviously helping the children and giving them loads of activities, friendships, but it’s good to support the parents as well,” she added. 

Laura, who describes herself as nothing more than a “volunteer” for the charity, the young mother explained how both she and her husband had ran races last year, to fundraise for Autism charities, but spoke of their desire to “do something else”.

‘Something different’. 

“Last year my husband and I ran races to raise money for Autistic charities, and this year we wanted to do something else, something different,” she told us.

Laura added: “My husband and I both love football, and when thinking ‘what could we do?’ we thought that a charity match might be a fun way of raising money for the charity. 

“A lot of the time, the mums take over in the charity; we’re generally quite hands on, but this match gives the dads, the uncles, the grandads and the cousins their chance to shine.”

Speaking about the about of planning that both she and her husband had put into their upcoming charity football match, Mrs Costello explained: “We started planning everything back in the early days of April, and it’s just grown arms and legs.

“It was a good idea, and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger. It’s good and there is interest, I’ve sold around 100 tickets so far, and I’m expecting some more people to buy their tickets soon, if not pay on the day. Hopefully they’ll be over 100 people there on the day,” she added.

‘Great charity’.

The couple’s specially organised charity football match will take place this Sunday at Broadwood Stadium, with “all of the proceeds” set to go back into the charity’s coffers, Laura explained.

“I have found the charity to be great for both of my sons, as well as my husband and I. My son Peter has made friends, something which for a child with Autism is not easy for him to do, but he likes being around the other kids in the charity, and tires him out: it gives him lots of fun things to do,” she explained. 

“I’ve made friends too and they’ve been a great support to us, because I think, when you have a child with special needs no-one really understands unless you’re really in it. This match is just our way of supporting what is a fantastic charity,” Laura added.

The charity football match kicks off at 2pm on Sunday 12th July, at Broadwood Football Stadium, in Cumbernauld. The cost of entry for adults is £3 and £1 for children, with attendees able to pay on the door on the day.