Staff and students at Freshfields were left in shock when one of their staff team died suddenly last month, from a heart attack aged just 50. Freshfields is a Burnley charity which works with and supports adults with learning disabilities through horticulture.
Ian Kirkbride was a talented gardener and much loved support carer, he was at his happiest when he was working alongside Freshfields students creating and tending gardens for people.
He initially began by volunteering at Freshfields after a work related accident in a previous employment left him with limited use of his hand. He’d also suffered terrible depression and a breakdown due to his accident. Ian after said being part of Freshfields gave him a new direction and brought him back to his old self. Although he was skeptical at first as he’d never had any involvement with people with a learning disability. Thankfully it wasn’t long before he was very much one of the family, and took part time employment, which very soon became full time.
Centre manager Gail Harvey-Clapham said ‘Ian was extremely proud of all our guys and their achievements no matter how small and many of those achievements were down to Ian’s imaginative and creative approach. He never saw the disability, only the ability.’
His pride and joy was the Bike Club, which he set up; he loved seeing everyone beat his weekly assault course, no matter how difficult he made it. Each year the charity awards the Kirkbride Cup to the most improved cyclist, this year it will be a very poignant presentation. Ian had completed his Bikability training and was keen to teach students to ride a bike, even though some have never ridden before. He was also in charge of Freshfields up-cycling scheme and was always keen to find activities that would challenge the students and that they would enjoy.
Gail said ‘Ian was a huge part of Freshfields, it will be very difficult to find someone who could step into his shoes, he was a little bit of everything, who brought so much fun to so many people and will be greatly missed.’
The role of volunteers is an important one at Freshfields, many staff members begin by volunteering first. Ian is testament to how it can have a positive effect to people’s lives.