Cromer couple with adopted family of five special-needs children are honoured by their town

PUBLISHED: 14:49 25 April 2014

The Wharam family from Cromer. Left to right, Jay, 15, Lindsey, Annabel, 8, Lottie, 25, Ellen, 29, Dave and Ben, 34.

The Wharam family from Cromer. Left to right, Jay, 15, Lindsey, Annabel, 8, Lottie, 25, Ellen, 29, Dave and Ben, 34. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

A north Norfolk couple who have adopted five special needs children are to be honoured by their home town.

Other worthy winners of Cromer Honours

■ Every August Libby Clohisey and Tony West book a fortnight off work and head for Cromer beach.

But the old schoolfriends have no time for idle sunbathing - they’re on their feet all day organising fun activities for the hundreds of children who flock to the resort in the run-up to Cromer Carnival.

The pair took over the job about seven years ago, according to Mrs Clohisey, 49, of Salisbury Road, Cromer.

She works as a nursing assistant at the vet’s in Aylsham, while Mr West, 52, of Grove Road, Cromer, is a self-employed electrician.

Children can take part in a host of free events, funded by Cromer Carnival, including decorating crab shells, a sandcastle competition, disco, and a duck race from Cromer Pier.

And at Hallowee’n the pair also stage a scary trail for children on the pier and its surroundings. “Zombies” emerge from secret hiding places to frighten young thrill seekers as they wander past in fancy dress.

“I think we enjoy it all as much as the children - but it is hard work,” said Mrs Clohisey. “We have a team of ‘slaves’ who help us - friends and family.”

■ Through the worst of the winter rain and chill Cromer’s volunteer beach cleaning crew have been giving up part of their weekends to rid the beach of mountains of rubbish left in the wake of the December storm surge.

The voluntary effort, spearheaded by Paul and Denise Mason, and Tim and Joanne Bateman, attracted 12-15 people at each session. They would burn the splintered remains of beach huts, and collect and bag plastics ready for North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) to collect.

Car salesman Mr Mason, 49, of Mill Road, Cromer, said the worst had now been cleared and they were talking to NNDC about removing rubbish from the cliffs, because of safety concerns.

“It’s been fun doing it and a great community activity. It’s our beach and we didn’t want visitors seeing it like that,” he added.

■ Not much happens in Cromer without Kate Royall helping out. Ms Royall, 31, of Connaught Road, Cromer, is a stalwart of the carnival, Crab and Lobster Festival, and helps arrange the annual New Year’s Day firework photo competition.

She is also a former Cromer town councillor, and helped with the Cromer and Sheringham Arts Festival (COAST). Ms Royall, who works full time as digital and communications officer for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, is also among the beach clean-up volunteers who are receiving an honour. In addition, will receive a mayor’s commendation award for her commitment to Cromer. Mayor David Pritchard said: “She is the only person I know who manages to fit 36 hours into every single day.”

Other award winners are:

■ Rebecca Wass, manager of Cromer Pier, and her team will also be presented with a mayor’s commendation award for their hard work in getting the pier theatre’s Christmas show back on stage again just a few days after the December storm surge badly damaged the pier.

The team then continued to work hard through the winter, as repairs went on around them.

■ Cromer Academy’s year 10 boys’ football team has reached the final four this season in a national competition involving more than 100 teams. They will receive the Cromer Honours youth award.

■ Carol Blake and John Dennis, both in their 60s, are Cromer Station’s adopters. They empty bins, sweep the platform, and clean the shelter windows to make sure visitors’ first and last impressions of the town are good. Their efforts, plus those of the Cromer in Bloom team which looks after six plant tubs, saw Cromer earn Greater Anglia’s Most Improved Station award last year.

■ Methodist minister Rev Sharon Willimott and Cromer Food Bank earn their award for setting up a much-needed resource in the town. During the year to March 31 the food bank, launched in August 2012, issued 2,328 three-day food parcels to people in crisis in north Norfolk.

■ Cromer town councillor John Frosdick has been nominated as a carer. He is described as “so constant and reliable.” ■ And Robert James’ name has been put forward by his neighbour who said, despite physical difficulties of his own, Mr James would always go the extra mile to help.

■ The Cromer Honours will be presented during the Annual Town Meeting on April 30, from 7pm-9.30pm, in Cromer Parish Hall.

The evening will also include information about street lighting being switched off after midnight, coastal engineer Brian Farrow talking about Cromer’s sea defences, Rik Martin, of the Norfolk Rural Community Council, speaking on the Poorlands Trust, the presentation of grants, and the chance to quiz councillors.

Dave and Lindsey Wharam, who are both past retirement age, are out of bed by 6.15am every day to care for their three daughters and two sons.

And, at the end of a hectic day spent doling out regular medicines to all, showering and tube feeding the youngest two, and attending frequent hospital appointments - on top of the routine chores of family life - it is often midnight before they fall into bed.

Over the years they have also experienced the tragedy of losing another three adopted children, whose severe problems led to their early deaths.

All their children have enjoyed a loving, caring, happy life with the Wharams who even manage to find time for family outings.

Tony West and Libby Clohisey, winners of a Cromer Town Council Cromer honour for their voluntary work organising children's activities during carnival week.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Tony West and Libby Clohisey, winners of a Cromer Town Council Cromer honour for their voluntary work organising children's activities during carnival week. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

On April 30 Mr Wharam, 67, and the three oldest children, will attend Cromer’s annual town meeting where he will be presented with a Cromer Honour by mayor David Pritchard.

The awards are handed out annually to townspeople who have made a positive contribution to Cromer life.

The Wharams, of Vicarage Road, had three of their own children when they decided to adopt a special needs baby.

That was 33 years ago. Their “home-grown” trio have all moved out and married, while their first adopted sibling, Ben, who has Downs syndrome, and medical problems including epilepsy, has stayed at home with mum and dad.

Mr Wharam, who was made redundant from his job as a plastics factory quality control manager in 1991, has also remained at home ever since to help his wife, 70, with the children’s care.

Today their adopted family also includes Ellen, 29 and Lottie, 26, who both have Downs syndrome and heart problems. The youngest two, Jay, 15, and Annabel, eight, have other conditions. Neither can walk and they are both tube fed.

“Why do we do this?” said Mr Wharam. “As Mallory said: ‘because it’s there.’”

His wife, a 70-year-old former nurse, added: “I think foster parents do a fantastic job but I honestly believe these children need permanency which is why we adopted.”

Downs are delightful people - there is nothing nasty about them. They are peacemakers.

“I honestly believe that if we hadn’t done this I would be in the Third World, helping children. I cannot bear injustice - don’t get me started or I’ll cry.”

Cromer mayor David Pritchard said he had nominated the couple for the award because he had been so impressed by their story.

“I feel they need recognition, and are an example of what is good in society today,” he added.

“Cromer should be proud of this couple and what they have done to provide a home and family for so many years to so many children.”

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