May 21, 2018

Keith Duffy and Rik Waddon
Keith Duffy and Rik Waddon

Hearts and Minds Challenge is a charitable organisation that was set up in 2010 and is based in Manchester UK. It aims to support children with autism in the UK and also in Ireland.  Their Mission ‘is to raise the quality of life of individuals and their families affected by autism by ensuring the highest standards in education, care and support leading to employment and equality of living opportunities.

Currently the main focus is a fundraising effort to raise £1m for a new Autism Specific School in Manchester. The campaign was launched by former Coronation Street actor Keith Duffy and Paralympic cyclist Rik Waddon, who are also both patrons of the charity.

The school will initially offer specialised services to 25 children aged from 3 – 11. There will be five children in each class with one teacher and two teaching assistants. There will also be occupational therapy and speech and language therapists working closely with the children. The school will offer family counselling services as well as autism specific training workshops aimed towards the emergency services. This is to give information and detailed advice so that emergency services no best how to approach an autistic individual in an emergency situation.

Fundraising is through sporting challenges, special events and a mobile phone recycling scheme.

To date, the charity’s fundraising activity has raised over £500,000.  The mobile phone recycling scheme enables families to exchange old mobiles for iPads. Just 165 mobile phones can be traded in for a brand new iPad

Ian McGrath, founder of Hearts & Minds, said:

“This scheme has already helped to transform the lives of over 240 families around the UK and we would like to see many more people benefit.  The therapeutic benefits of using interactive, easy-to-use technology, such as an iPad, have now been widely recognised and really can make a difference.”

You can read many families’ stories of obtaining an iPad through the scheme on the charity’s blog site.


Membership of the charity gives families access to a wide range of services including offering educational support, awareness raising, counselling, advocacy services and giving advice to families upon receiving an autism diagnosis. The charity also has a very active Facebook community and twitter site.

The biggest upcoming fund-raising event is the Las Vegas Themed Ball which will take place in Manchester on November 9th. Tickets can be bought via contacting Cheryl at

About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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