It is with deep sadness that I report the untimely death of Simon Ward, who died suddenly in London in December. It’s a mark of respect that I’ve taken so long to write this. Not because I had other things to do but because I could not imagine Nacoa without Simon, and I needed to postpone the moment of acceptance.
Simon joined us in 1992 as a Trustee. At the time he was Corporate Affairs Director at Whitbread. Before judging us for the Association, Simon arranged funding from all the major breweries. We would not have survived without their support. At the time, other funders didn’t believe growing up with parental alcohol problems was an issue in itself. Not one of the breweries asked for anything in return -no advertisements of their support – they just wanted to help.
Simon took up the reins as Hon. Treasurer and guided us through the process of registering as a charity, producing accounts, procuring audits pro bono from Ernst & Young and setting up good governance.
In 1995 we trained 40 volunteers from the University of Bristol and needed accommodation in the centre of Bristol; this would be the first office located outside of my home. Simon knew someone! Simon always knew someone, and this time they were at Allied Domecq where we spent five years rent and services free. Here we were able to train new volunteers and create a home for the Helpline.
Simon also introduced me to Valerie Howarth, CEO of ChildLine. Now Dame Valerie Howarth of Breckland, her extraordinary knowledge, kindness and generosity of spirit helped us to adopt best practise and encouraged us to collect data to help with fundraising – the numbers game, she told me – and research. As a consequence, we have databases stretching back to 2000 with a wealth of information about the problems experienced by children of alcoholics and what helps. Callers are the true architects of the Nacoa Helpline.
In 1998 Simon became Vice Chair of Trustees following the death of co-founder David Stafford, who was Chair of Trustees at the time. Simon’s wisdom, compassion and sound business sense ensured that we were able to grieve for David whilst continuing to build a framework which would allow us to flourish.
Simon subsequently became Chair of Trustees and was a delight to work with. His support was gently given and when needed he was Nacoa’s rock. He believed passionately in what we did and moved heaven and earth raising funds through the bleak years of recession.
In 2010 I asked Simon what were his favourite Nacoa moments over the past 20 years. He said joining me in a leap of faith when I gave up paid employment to work for Nacoa full time in 1994. It may have been a leap of faith but it was a well thought through leap. In true Simon-fashion, he wrote to me setting out all the reasons why this might not be good for me – we had no money to speak of and few prospects, just a burning desire to keep the Helpline alive. His second was winning The Guardian Charity Award in 2006. Later on he included winning The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2012.
When his health began to fail in 2011, he handed over the mantle of Chair of Trustees. He was appointed our first Nacoa Ambassador in recognition of his long and stalwart service for children of alcoholics. He remained a Trustee until his death.
The last conversation I had with Simon was about The Right Honourable Liam Byrne MP, who’d written offering his help to raise the profile of the charity and make changes for the 2.6 m children of alcoholics in the UK.
I quote from Simon’s subsequent email:
‘It really is outstanding to attract the interest of a political heavyweight like Liam Byrne. There will be all sorts of ways in which he might help. I wonder if he might consider setting up and chairing an All-Party Parliamentary Group to further the interests of COAs.’
Serendipitously, Liam did just that, and on 8 February Simon’s wish came true; a lasting legacy to one of life’s truly kind, generous and passionate pioneers.
The Trustees echo Michelle Nadler, our current Chair of Trustees’ tribute to Simon ‘I had the pleasure of knowing Simon over a number of years. I was always moved by his humility, wisdom, gentleness and knowledge. He remains in my mind and heart as a true gentleman in the finest terms. His long time contribution to Nacoa has laid the foundations for our long term future and I know that he would be smiling at all the latest incredible work on the APPG.’
Simon would also be delighted that we are welcoming two new Patrons, Liam Byrne and Cherie Lunghi, who both spoke movingly and with great passion for children of alcoholics at our 25 year Anniversary Gala. They thanked us for every child we’ve helped and pledged their ongoing care and support for everyone struggling with parental alcohol problems.
Nacoa lives on, all of us standing on the shoulders of those who came before us; including those of Deirdre Boyd who joins us for her second term as a Trustee.
Together we are a community dedicated to providing help, support and hope to children of alcoholics everywhere. We may not have been able to help our parents but we can and will help our children and our children’s children.
Hilary Henriques MBE