The Percy Hedley Foundation is 71 Years Old!

The Percy Hedley Foundation celebrated their 71st Birthday on the 16th February, see how it all started and some memorable events that have happened since.

We’re 71! 

For 71 years we have been empowering children and adults with disabilities. When the Foundation began back in 1953, there were just 12 pupils, now we have two schools, a college, adult day services as well as residential services. All told we support over 600 people across the North East.

Taking it back to the start…

The Percy Hedley Foundation wouldn’t have been formed without the power and determination of parents, in particular Molly and Stephen Darke.  

Their son, Stephen Lawrence Darke, was born 8th January 1942 with Cerebral Palsy. They campaigned with other parents for a school suitable for their children. The legend goes that they used to visit local pubs collecting money as part of their fundraising efforts and wash it in the bath before putting it in the bank. 

Because of their passion and commitment, the Percy Hedley Foundation was founded in 1953 as a special school for children with Cerebral Palsy.  When the first school opened there were only 12 students, one of whom was Stephen Lawrence Darke.  

Stephen Lawrence Darke remained a resident of the Foundation for the rest of his life, residing in Chipchase House, until his death in 2022, aged 80.   

We thank the Darke family for their unwavering support throughout the years. 

(Left is Molly and Stephen Darke and to the right is their son, also named Stephen Darke)

Memorable Moments From the Past 71 Years

1954 - Official Opening Ceremony with the Duchess of Kent

Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent in 1954, visited for our official opening ceremony.  

1965 - Started partnering with local business to provide disabled adults with work

In the 1960’s, we teamed up with local businesses such as Proctor & Gamble, Metal Box and Pyrotenax; to create better work opportunities for adults with disabilities that accessed our day service.

1996 – Stephen Miller, a former Percy Hedley School student, wins gold medals at the Paralympics

Stephen Miller MBE, who attended Percy Hedley School, trained hard to become a 3-time Paralympic gold medal winner in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

2018 – Lost Voice Guys, a former Percy Hedley School student, wins BGT

Lee Ridley, also known as Lost Voice Guy, rose to fame after becoming the first comedian to win Britain’s Got Talent in 2018. Lee has cerebral palsy and attended Percy Hedley School. He uses a communication aid to deliver witty and hilarious jokes as part of his comedy act, often highlighting disability in his set.

2022 - Hedley’s College students become the first disabled young people in Northumbria Police Cadets

Eight of our students at Hedley’s College were sworn in as the first ever to join Volunteer Police Cadets Scheme for those with special needs. Now, this partnership is the winner of multiple awards including the Lord Ferrers Award and the Natspec awards for Innovator of the Year and the best Curriculum Innovation.

2024 - Alan Shearer Visits Northern Counties School

Football legend Alan Shearer visited Northern Counties School as hosted a Q&A session as part of the school’s curriculum of My Home Place. Afterwards he posed for photographs with staff and students, including from Northern Counties School Football team, and signed memorabilia.

How We Celebrated Our Birthday

Our 71st Birthday coincided with our second #PaintTheToon event this year, where both schools and businesses dressed in purple in an attempt to paint the town purple.

Get Involved With the celebrations this year

There’s a host of events happening throughout the year that you can get involved in:

Color Rush Obstacle Run

Join #TeamPercyHedley for a Color Obstacle Rush on Saturday 8th June at Newcastle Race Course!
Run a fun 5k course through crazy obstacles, colour stations, musical entertainment and beloved foam obstacles.
Register for just £20 with a £120 minimum fundraising target.

Percy Hedley Golf Day

We are delighted to invite you to the Percy Hedley Foundation’s charity Golf Day at Ramside Hall Golf Club, Durham, on Thursday 6th June 2024.
For £500 per team of 4 players, you’ll enjoy a friendly competition over 18 holes of championship golf. The day will include a shotgun start, a breakfast roll on arrival and a BBQ afterwards in the clubhouse.

Mini and Junior Great North Run 2024

Sign up for the Mini or Junior Great North Run on Saturday 7th September 2024.

We are looking for 15 inspirational people to run the 2024 Mini (3-8) and Junior (9-16) Great North Run for #TeamPercyHedley!

Great North Run 2024

Run for #TeamPercyHedley for the 43rd edition of the iconic half-marathon. We have limited spaces left for the Great North Run 2024.

Percy Hedley Ball

Join us for our next fundraising ball in November 2024!

Get Involved

Whether it’s through Business Partnerships, Volunteering, choosing us as Charity of the Year or putting on sponsored events, find out how you can get involved.