Armed Forces veterans’ families enjoy spooktacular Halloween Week at the Beacon of Light

Wearside children from veterans’ families have enjoyed a spooktacular fun-filled half-term at the Beacon of Light which culminated in making pumpkins to use on Halloween.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 3:11 pm

Veterans’ families also had the chance to make ghoulish Halloween t-shirts and scary biscuits of witches and ghosts. With Remembrance Sunday only two weeks away, families also made their own poppies and a ‘Lest We Forget’ display in the entrance to the Beacon of Light.

The half-term event has been run in partnership between SAFC’s official charity, the Foundation of Light, and Veterans in Crisis Sunderland.

Business Development Manager, Paul McLoughlin, himself a veteran of 14 years in the army, said: “The initiative is about getting veterans’ families together. They all have a shared experience of what it’s like to have a loved one serving away from home and the difficulties they may have been through.

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"These sort of events are really important so families don’t feel isolated and can share problems which they may have experienced. It’s been great to see the children making the pumpkins and everyone laughing, smiling and interacting.”

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For Paul it was also an opportunity to identify any families who may need additional support.

He added: “It can be extremely difficult for some people to adjust to life outside the forces. Some of the things people have witnessed can affect them for the rest of their life. This is also a chance for me to see if there’s anything I can help families with.”

Children of Armed Forces veterans with their Halloween pumpkins at the Beacon of Light.

With funding from the Armed Forces Covenant, the Foundation of Light has been involved with delivering support programmes to veterans’ families since Easter 2020. This half-term has seen 20 families from across the city taking part.

Head of Sport and Wellbeing, Liz Barton Jones, said: “Sunderland has such a high proportion of veterans and this is an opportunity to bring them together to take part in a range of activities.

"We are really proud to be working in partnership with Veterans in Crisis and I think it’s important to recognise what families go through and the job carried out by our Armed Forces.

"The families all seem to have enjoyed making the pumpkins and the other activities.”

Veterans in Crisis business manager Paul McLoughlin at the family Halloween pumpkin carving event at the Beacon of Light.

With a partner and brothers having served in the army, one participant who knows more than most the trials and tribulations life in the forces can bring is Charmayne Tench. Partner, Luke Conlon, served in the Army until he left seven years ago.

Charmayne, 31, from Town End Farm, said: “It was difficult when Luke was serving as there were long periods when we just didn’t see him. It can also be difficult for people to readjust to civilian life, particular with some of the things they’ve seen.

"We’ve been here four out of five days and it’s brilliant to be able to share this experience of what it’s like. It’s also given the children something to do and they have loved it.”

Children of Armed Forces veterans taking part in Halloween pumpkin carving at the Beacon of Light.

Although only four when his dad left the army, son Jaxon Conlon, remembers what it was like when his father was away.

Jaxon, 10, said: “I was only little but I remember missing my dad. I’ve really enjoyed making my pumpkin and meeting the other children.”

Sister Jessie Conlon, six, added: “This week has been lots of fun. My favourite bit was baking the scary biscuits.”

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