Services group unites to help Abbi

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The fun of “It’s a Knockout” will be brought to Montrose next month by the local emergency services to help local girl Abbi Reid.

Members of the police, fire service, ambulance service, coastguard and the RNLI will go head-to-head with teams from Rossie School, Tesco, Montrose Academy, Montrose Sports Centre and the Links Park Community Trust in a series of fast and furious games at Union Park, which will run alongside a family fun day.

There will also be a concert in the evening featuring two local bands to ensure that the day, which starts at noon, will end on a high note at 9pm.

Six-year-old Abbi, who has cerebral palsy, is currently waiting to hear when she will undergo surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London to help alleviate the symptoms of her condition.

Although the procedure – known as Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy – is being funded by the NHS, Abbi’s family are fund-raising to meet the costs of the intense physiotherapy which she will have to undergo to help her progress after the operation.

Constable Ally Hutchison, community liaison officer, said: “I used to work with Abbi’s mum and dad and, after talking to them recently, offered the family support on behalf of the group.

“It’s going to be a huge event, and a lot of the games we have planned are water-based, with a 12-foot pool and balance beam, although there will also be human skittles, bungee running and trampoline rugby.

“There will also be all the usual family activities including a barbecue, beer tent and bouncy castle.”

The event is the latest in a successful series of fund-raisers organised by the group, which has so far realised around £7,000 for local causes.

In the 15 months since it was formed, the Montrose Emergency Services Group has been a resounding success both with service members and the public.

The group was set up with the twin purposes of fostering a closer, more solid working relationship between all five emergency services in the Montrose area, as well as supporting local community groups and charities.

In both roles, the group has proved to be extremely effective and, as well as raising well over £6,000 for the community, has strengthened the existing partnership between the police, fire and rescue service, paramedics, coastguard and lifeboat crew, all of which ultimately benefits the public in the town and district.

The idea for the organisation came about after Ally took over the post of community liaison officer.

He said: “I felt, after being on the beat in Montrose for six years, that there should be a more formalised relationship between the services.

“We knew each other. but I thought that if we came together as a group, we could enhance that partnership working in the community and form more of an appreciation of what everyone does.

“I contacted the coastguard, the fire service and the paramedics and we took it from there.”

The group now undertakes regular joint training exercises, around two or three a month when time allows, which have been welcomed by members of all sectors, according to coastguard Scott Constantine.

He said: “It has been great just from the joint working and training point of view. and we know a lot more about each other now and have a better appreciation about what the other groups do.

“From our side, the only joint training we did was with the lifeboat. but we’ve done things with the police and paramedics, such as a recent cliff rescue exercise, that only previously happened on rare occasions.”

Ally added that the fund-raising and community element developed later but has proved to be a positive move.

A recent 1980s-themed disco raised £3,000 alone. while the group has also run successful race nights as well as children’s parties, discos and started the Friday Night Project in Borrowfield, a programme of diversionary activities for youngsters, as well as games nights at the YM and sporting fixtures with local teams

This has also had a positive spin-off, as young people are less likely to feel intimidated by those they have regarded up to now as just authority figures. and Scott said there has been a definite change of attitude.

Scott said: “Having seen us out of uniform, they’re more likely to come up to us and talk. They aren’t as shy as they used to be and are far more open.

“The feedback we’ve had from the Friday Night Project in particular has been great.”

Ally added: “We’re here to support the community in any shape or form, whether that’s through fund-raising, providing advice or a presence at local events.”