July 30 2014 Latest news:
by Tim Lamden and Layla Haidrani
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
A former florist is preparing for a skydive to raise money for a children’s charity which supports his teenage nephew.
Stephen Swain, 46, whose family ran Essex Court Flowers in Hampstead High Street for 20 years, will jump 10,000ft from a light aircraft on June 29 in aid of Families United Network, which supports young people and their families living with disabilities.
Mr Swain, who is now a service co-ordinator for the charity and lives in Hertfordshire, will be joined on the skydive by his 20-year-old nephew Steven.
Steven’s younger brother Teddy, 14, has received support from the charity since being diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Mr Swain said: “Teddy wasn’t diagnosed for years and because of his behaviour he wasn’t in school for nearly two years. I saw how isolated and introverted he became.
“We take young children out into the community to do things they wouldn’t do with mum and dad, and we run holiday projects nine times a year. Teddy used to come to our youth club and he joins some of our trips.”
At the age of 11, Mr Swain moved to Spedan Close, Hampstead, where his mother still lives, and went on to sell flowers for the family business on the corner of Willoughby Road and Hampstead High Street for 20 years.
The family took over the stall more than 30 years ago from Maggie Richardson who ran it for 60 years. Her work has since been honoured with a plaque on the spot where her stall stood, dubbed Maggie’s Corner.
In 2008, rising rents and competition from Tesco forced the flower-selling business to close.
Mr Swain left several years before the stall’s closure to become a youth worker but has fond memories of famous customers in Hampstead.
“I was very close with Denis and Stella Quilley and Peter Barkworth,” he said. “Glenn Close was living in Hampstead and Denis told her to ‘go and buy your flowers off Steve’.
“Boy George and George Michael were customers, the list is endless. It was a lovely time and I really enjoyed my time.”
Mr Swain has raised £500 in donations to support the skydive so far and is aiming for £800 in total.
He added: “I’m really excited, I can’t wait. I just want to do it now. It’s raising a lot of money and it’s doing a great thing.
“I see first hand the pleasure the children get from the projects we run. Ten pounds pays for one of our volunteers working at one of our clubs each day.”
To support Mr Swain, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/swain1000. For more about Families United Network, visit familiesunitednetwork.org.uk.