Boy, 13, with brain injury raises £178,000 to save disability activity centre

Megan Baynes, PA
·3-min read

A 13-year-old boy who suffered a catastrophic brain injury has raised more than £178,000 for the charity that “changed his life” – more than seven times his original target.

Two weeks ago, Oliver Voysey from Newcastle launched his Oliver’s Calvert Army crowdfunding appeal to help save a Lake District activity centre for children with disabilities.

After smashing through their original target of £25,000, the Calvert family said they want to “shoot for the moon” to try and raise as much for the Lake District Calvert Trust in Keswick as possible.

Oliver was a regular visitor to the centre with his parents, Sarah and Gary, and sister Elizabeth before the pandemic forced it to close, causing it to lose more than £1 million in income.

Oliver’s mother, Sarah, told the PA news agency: “I don’t think we thought we would get to £25,000. The big financial donations will have a huge impact on the Calvert trust, but what has had a huge impact on us is the messages that people have sent.

Oliver, a Star Wars fan, celebrating his 13th birthday with his family
Oliver, a Star Wars fan, celebrating his 13th birthday with his family (Family handout/PA)

“We set out to do these challenges and raise as much money as possible, but it has been really emotional and we have had so many phone calls of people saying thanks, and we feel like we are part of something.

“We have felt part of a community.”

Oliver suffered a brain injury when he was two days old, which left him with sight loss, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism and learning difficulties. He requires specialist care daily and additional support.

In the run-up to Oliver’s 13 birthday, the family completed a number of 13-themed challenges, including scoring 13 goals in a penalty shoot-out, eating 13 party rings in one go, and completing a 13-minute walk.

Oliver also celebrated his birthday on January 30 with a 13-layer chocolate cake.

Oliver celebrated his 13th birthday with a 13-layer chocolate cake, and by raising £178,000 for charity (Family handout/PA)
Oliver celebrated his 13th birthday with a 13-layer chocolate cake, and by raising £178,000 for charity (Family handout/PA)

More than 2,000 people have joined in, setting themed challenges to help fundraise and the family hope to have people in 13 different countries now taking part.

Oliver said when he spends time with his family at the centre, he feels like his disability “just disappears”.

“It’s the only place we can go as a family where we can all do the same activity,” Sarah added.

“Gary and I can really be parents there and not carers because the instructors help out supporting Oliver.

“We can just be a family.”

Oliver’s army of supporters have raised more than £78,000 on his crowdfunding page and £108,000 in offline donations — including an anonymous one-off donation of £100,000.

Mr Voysey told PA: “It’s overwhelming, it hasn’t sunk in yet.

“Let’s keep going with it and see how far we can get with it.”

Jennifer Scott, fundraising manager at the Lake District Calvert Trust, said: “Oliver’s Calvert Army is on the march. Oliver is such an inspirational young man and we are immensely grateful to him and his family.

“They’re special people achieving special things. The support we are receiving is nothing short of incredible.”

To donate, visit: gofundme.com/olivers-calvert-army