How Dream-A-Way makes a difference – Dave’s story

Dave and Pauline on theier wedding day in 1963. Dave is in his army uniform
Dave and Pauline on their wedding day in 1963

I first learnt about Dream-A-Way in 1999 when I took my wife Pauline for a medical appointment and there in the waiting room I found one of their leaflets…

When we returned home, Pauline and I discussed the content of the leaflet and decided to apply to Dream-A-Way for a holiday, as the pictures on the leaflet showed that the caravans had been adapted for people with disabilities.

We spoke to a lady called Olive Searle who was a friend of the charity and arranged to go to Exeter to book a caravan. We met Olive and she helped us complete the paperwork and then she sat with my wife Pauline and chatted for over an hour. At this point I could clearly see Olive was a kind, considerate and caring lady.

Two weeks later we were delighted to receive a letter from Jeff Merrett to say we had been designated a caravan at Haven Devon Cliffs holiday park at Sandy Bay near Exmouth. AG22!

When we arrived, we found our allotted Dream-A-Way caravan (AG22 for those who know the park) and were amazed at how the interior had been adapted to be fully accessible for wheelchair users.

Pauline sat on the veranda enjoying the weather and breathtaking view while I made up the beds and unpacked the luggage. It was at this time we met Jeff Merrett for the first time; he sat on the veranda with Pauline for quite a lengthy time where they chatted and joked. He impressed us both and was a true gentleman – I think it was love at first sight! 😄

This is when I first became an avid supporter of Dream-A-Way and as the years went by, we had numerous enjoyable holidays in various caravans belonging to the charity at Sandy Bay.

We started to bring the grandchildren with us as we were so impressed and they, like us, fell in love with Sandy Bay straight away. They enjoyed the facilities, the swimming pool and the fair rides and the caravans with their superb sea views.

It’s a lovely clean well-kept site with peace and tranquillity for all to enjoy and our youngest grandson Kyle wanted to live there he liked it so much!

Dave and Pauline with daughter Tina who is holding her mum's hand.
Dave and Pauline with their daughter Tina

Pauline sadly passed away and I have since developed my own disabilities but have had nothing but brilliant support, not just from Jeff, but the entire Dream Team, all of whom are volunteers.

This year when we were there, I regularly met with Michelle for coffee to discuss all things Dream-A-Way and more and was given 100% support from Jeff.

In 2017 Jeff approached me and enquired if i would like to become a member of the Dream Team which I was delighted to accept. My family and I now regularly donate loose change and support in any way we can.

I would personally like to thank Jeff, Gill and Michelle all the volunteers and the rest of the Dream Team for all your support over the years as it’s helped us all to enjoy such lovely memories.

I have the utmost respect for their Patron, Sir John Evans, former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police, their President Nigel Mansell CBE and Judy Spiers for their support of this charity.

So, whenever you see a Dream-A-Way collection box I’d urge you to please donate whatever change you can as 99p in every £1 donated is used to give Devon people with disabilities or life limiting conditions the chance to have a memorable holiday or day out, just like we’ve enjoyed. This is only possible because of all the volunteers who willingly give their time free of charge.

If you would like to make a donation online you can do so by clicking here 

All the best and many thanks for reading my story.

Dave Wilsher