THE BLOG

How This Club Giving Young People Confidence Reminds Me What Christmas Is Really About

23/12/2014 15:23 GMT | Updated 22/02/2015 10:59 GMT

I'm in Primark with a 17-year-old and a 10-year-old on their annual 'Christmas shopping' day out. They're passionately arguing about whether a red scarf is "fashionable" or "disgusting" and I'm trying to diffuse the situation by distracting them with a blue one.

To anyone else, they probably look like my younger, bickering sisters. But I know they're members of FAB club.

FAB is a simple concept - it's an inclusive club whose name means 'For Any Body'. Most members are from London or Hertfordshire and are between the ages of eight and 25, although some stay on as "helpermembers" far beyond that.

Some are autistic, some have Down's syndrome, some are in foster care and some just need somewhere to go on a Saturday. The club aims to help each and every one discover their identity and gain confidence.

fab club group

I joined FAB as a helper as for my Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award in 2009 and have helped out on three holidays and odd Saturday sessions since.

Being a FAB helper is no walk in the park - but those moments when someone turns up with a frown and leaves with a smile make it worth it.

Singing 'Summer Nights' with the late, great Jason on the karaoke machine last year is a memory that will stay with me forever.

I have serious respect for the helpers who find the time and energy to work at FAB every single Saturday - they truly embody everything HuffPost UK's month of Giving Back is all about.

fab jason

There are 37 FAB members in total, with Saturday sessions having an average attendance of 17 (some come every other week).

The Royal Borough of Kingston support the club by funding two youth workers each week and allowing the use of the Devon Way Centre as a base.

But without donations and external support, FAB's members would be sat at the youth club playing scrabble and having a pretty miserable time.

That's where Sally Glossop comes in. This year marks Sally's 30th year running FAB at weekends. She works as an advisory teacher for autism during the week and is, quite honestly, one of the most remarkable people I've ever met.

She and her team of regular helpers work their socks off to raise funds and arrange activities for members that are enjoyable and also help them to develop skills they need for the future.

This year members have been to see the poppies at the Tower of London, completed a sponsored walk in Richmond Park and been ice skating at Hampton Court.

In short, they've been given the opportunity to do all the things other people their age are doing, regardless of their ability or background.

On top of all that, FAB runs an annual week-long trip to Cornwall where members get to let their hair down and parents at home get a much-deserved break.

fab beach

But why write a piece about FAB now?

As I stand in Primark with the two girls I realise the best thing FAB does. It provides a support network unlike anything I've seen available in any school and creates bonds between the most unlikely of people.

We leave the shop and get in the minibus back to the youth centre with some of the other members. The girls have long forgotten their tiff and we merrily wrap presents together.

FAB is a family - a family that bicker, but a family that are there for each other no matter what - and isn't family what Christmas is really all about?

fab presents