I am Lauren Henderson and I am the founder of Purple Wings Charity. I work with a small team of trustees and we help sufferers of IBD with ostomies regain confidence and self-esteem. We hope to raise confidence levels through several channels. We offer ‘Time for me Grants’ where an IBD ostomate can be nominated for some ‘time out’ or a confidence boosting experience. This could be anything from a spa break, photo shoot, a lads’ day out or a romantic get-away.
Another avenue to boosting confidence is through our events. In March, we had our annual ‘Pin up Photo Shoot’ where ladies were pampered and photographed - 12 ladies volunteered to be in our 2018 calendar (Have a look at our website – they are very gorgeous! #Bagwhatbag.) Our first ever calendar went viral: clearly, ‘outing’ our bag is a great thing…either this or the fact that they were in gorgeous lingerie! But hey, you get the picture, right? Important messages being shared and whether you are in the calendar, buying or happen to catch a glimpse on social media of these brave people, it’s bound to be a boost for all involved!
On 22nd July 2017, we held our fourth annual ball and it was fabulous! The event was split into two sections – the afternoon exhibition 1-4pm and the evening ball 7pm-late. During the afternoon we invite ostomy related companies to have stands to show case their services and goods. We also have inspirational guest speakers talking of their experiences of IBD and having a stoma, and they are always well received – if not with a tear or two! Maybe personalised Purple Wings hankies would be a good shout for next year? The afternoon for me personally, is super important. I find that some of the patients I speak to, do not even realise there are other products out there. The exhibition gives patients a chance to have a look at all the stands (including some lovely lingerie stands with Jasmine Stacey Collection and Vanilla Blush), ask questions on how products work and how they may better their life with a stoma.
Our guest speakers that afternoon were Jenna Bahara and Nicola Fletcher. Both spoke of their difficult journeys but with such positivity. Nicola ended by showing us her huge rose tattoo on her bum cheek that covered her scarring from hundreds of abscesses! I wasn’t expecting that but of course, I fully celebrated a beautiful derriere!
The evening started at 7pm and of course no one was sat down at 7pm -panic! It was my mistake – they were all at the bar acquainting themselves with each other, friendships had started to form…but seriously, dinner is at 7pm! Eventually, everyone was sat to have our sumptuous 3 course dinner. This went down splendidly along with bottles of wine on the table sponsored by ConvaTec. After dinner, we shared a video of our year of achievements and I talked about our charity’s aim. I discussed the issue of a ‘public taboo’ and challenged the guests to really consider if there was indeed a ‘public taboo’ anymore or was it that we all had our own ‘personal taboos?’ Regardless, as a charity we will continue helping people accepting their stomas enabling them to live full and happy lives. Acceptance is a huge step and one that we focus on when helping patients.
Finally, Steve Cartmail did a very touching talk about his experiences of being a Purple Wings calendar boy. He spoke passionately about how the charity had helped him to accept his ostomy and his achievements since the shoot – I could not be prouder. He gave me a big hug that almost crushed my ribs after his talk and after catching my breath, I stood back as everyone clapped and cheered and realised that this charity DOES make a difference and the bruising on my ribs the day after was evidence after all of the hugs I had that night!
What happened then you ask? Well, there was a huge, inflatable banana being batted about and some bunny rabbit ears – of course, from our photo booth…but what really happened next was that people became friends and overall everyone had a good time - even the ones with a stoma – funny that eh?