A therapy dog from Lincoln College was hounded by a trio of television stars who helped the loveable canine promote his new charity calendar.

Labradoodle Freddie joined Lincoln College Group as a faculty dog from the Autism Dogs CIC charity late last year, which Lincoln College have actively supported since July 2020. Since then, Freddie has trained to become a fully-fledged therapy dog, qualifying just last week.

Freddie recently met TV stars Mathew Horne, famous for playing the lead role in Gavin & Stacey, comedian Morgana Robinson and former Eastenders actress Nina Wadia. Mathew, who is an ambassador for Mencap and whose brother has autism, was particularly moved by the story, and the three actors signed copies of the calendar and posed for photos to encourage sales.

TV stars Morgana Robinson (left) and Mathew Horne (right) with Lincoln College’s faculty dog Freddie (centre). | Photo: Lincoln College

The acting trio have been filming for a new TV sitcom called Newark, filming in the Nottinghamshire town of the same name. They were impressed by the canine’s efforts to help a young boy called Max and his future assistance dog Harry.

Max has autism and requires an Assistance Dog for therapeutic support for his anxiety. He has been matched with an Italian Spinone called Harry, who was originally fostered by Lincoln College Group – see more about his fundraising journey here.

Freddie, a faculty dog for Lincoln College Group, is raising money through his charity calendar. | Photo: Lincoln College

Max was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the summer of 2020, as well as with global development delay, fine motor skills issues, difficulties with social interaction and understanding emotions. His anxiety and stress caused meltdowns and The Bradley Lowery Foundation is supporting Max’s family to raise £9,450 for a fully trained Autism Support Dog.

The Foundation set up a fundraiser, which has so far raised over £3,600, and Freddie the dog’s calendar will hopefully push the total higher.

One of the signed calendars will be gifted to Max and his family, while the other two are up for grabs for two lucky people. Interested parties are invited to bid to get their hands on one via silent auction – proposed donation amounts should be emailed to Lincoln College’s Charlotte McHugh at [email protected].

Unsigned copies of the calendar are also available to purchase at £5 each from reception at both Lincoln and Newark College.

The family of Max (right) are hoping enough money will be raised so that Harry (left) can become his Assistance Dog. | Photo: Weird Wax

Charlotte McHugh, Head of Student Services and Supported Education at Lincoln College, looks after Freddie and said “Freddie is a star; he’s worked so hard over the last year to become a qualified therapy dog.

“We’re delighted to have him as part of the Lincoln College family and it’s really special to see the impact he has on the mental health and wellbeing of our learners.

“The work that we are doing with Autism Dogs CIC is a unique project. We are supporting the charity by fostering dogs to socialise them and give them the very best start on their journey to become an assistance dog.

“To get the endorsement of popular celebrities is really exciting and we hope it helps Max and his family reach their fundraising goal.”

Around 1,000 people have already signed up for this year’s Lincoln Santa Fun Run, but a series of road closures and traffic restrictions will be in place that could cause delays.

The traditional Lincoln Santa Fun Run, organised by the Rotary Club of Lincoln Colonia, was cancelled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and was held virtually instead, with around 200 people taking part.

This year’s event will take place at 11am on Sunday, December 12, with participants advised to meet at the start point of Westgate by 10.30am.

Numbers are limited to 1,200 places this year and registration will remain open here until 6pm on Saturday, December 11.

Adults, youth and child registrations with a Santa suit and finishing medal are priced at £12 per person, eco-registration (with no Santa suit) costs £8, while under fives (with no Santa suit) are free. A popular tradition in the Lincoln Santa Fun Run is the “Doggy Dash” and dogs can enter free of charge.

Road closures and traffic restrictions

The restrictions will be in place between 4pm on December 11 until 2pm on December 12, with access maintained to properties. An alternative route for vehicles will be signposted.

Road Closure Orders will be in place on the following roads (full length and both sides unless otherwise stated):

  • Bailgate
  • Church Lane
  • Eastgate
  • Greestone Place
  • Minster Yard
  • Newport (Bailgate to Rasen Lane)
  • Northgate
  • Pottergate
  • Priorygate
  • St Paul’s Lane
  • Westgate

No Waiting/No Loading At Any Time Orders will be in place on:

  • Bailgate (full length, including parking bays)
  • Church Lane (Bailgate to Northgate full length both sides)
  • Northgate (full length on both sides of road)
  • Eastgate (from Bailgate to Northgate on both sides of road)
  • Minster Yard (full length on both sides of road)
  • Westgate (from Bailgate to Burton Road, both sides)

The race route

This year will have a slightly different route, finishing at Minster Yard near Lincoln Cathedral instead of Castle Square.

Runners can choose to complete the full route of three laps (3.3km) or a short one lap route (1.2km).

The route for the 2021 Lincoln Santa Fun Run.

See more details about the 2021 route here.

Ray Peters, of the Rotary Club of Lincoln Colonia, told The Lincolnite: “We are nervous and excited and hope everyone stays safe, and that we have a fantastic event after the two years we’ve had.”

See more details about the 2021 Lincoln Santa Fun Run here

A woman who fled domestic abuse and arrived in Lincoln with £47,000 worth of debt five years ago, is now using her experience to help others by launching the Femme Finance Academy in the city.

Stephanie Wilson had a three-month-old baby son called Ethan, clothes and her car, when she moved from Leicestershire to Lincoln to start a new life, initially in a women’s refuge in the city.

After recently winning a Female Entrepreneur of the Year award, she told The Lincolnite that she had previously accumulated debt. She was on a low income, and took out loans and credit cards to pay for things, like when the washing machine broke.

Stephanie and her son Ethan at a Halloween party in the EDAN refuge living room in Lincoln in 2016.

She also claimed that her ex-partner took out credit cards and car loans in her name, and that she was the victim of financial abuse. Even though she worked, she said he controlled all the income and gave her an allowance.

After fleeing to Lincoln, a domestic abuse charity, now known as EDAN, helped her apply for benefits and to overcome the challenges of her situation.

She was also helped by Christians Against Poverty in Lincoln, who worked with her on a debt management plan. They managed to get £23,000 of the debt written off, which left her with a further £24,000, which she finished paying off last year.

She left the refuge after seven months and in 2017 she moved into a council property in the Birchwood area of the city and, through the help of people on social media, both free donations and her own purchases, she was able to furnish her new home.

Stephanie was determined to use her experience to help others and later that year she started an accountancy degree at the University of Lincoln, funded through student finance. She also did a bookkeeping job on the side, where she realised the true cost of being poor and developed key skills that have helped shape who she is today, saying “money was a big thing that had stopped me from progressing with life”.

Stephanie teaching the Money Masterclass in October 2021. | Photo: Ellie Osborne

Recalling her move to Lincoln in 2016, she told The Lincolnite: “I arrived with my clothes on my back and my car. When I went into the refuge they gave me a crochet blanket for my son and some toiletries.

“When you go into a refuge you feel like you have more freedom, but there is still an element of control.

“I felt like a bad parent as I’m the person that was supposed to be providing for my son, but we were living on a mattress. It made me doubt myself and reinforced what I’d previously been told, that I was a rubbish mum and I couldn’t even provide him with a cot.

“Now, I feel great being a mum. I am responsible for five children, two biological children (five-year-old Ethan and two-year-old Hunter), my husband’s two and I have parental responsibility for my nephew.”

Femme Finance Academy Money Masterclass in October 2021. | Photo: Ellie Osborne

Fast forward to 2021 and Stephanie is enjoying life with her new business – Femme Finance Academy – and her husband Nathan Wilson, who she married during lockdown last year.

Femme Finance Academy is based at the Mosaic building on Silver Street in Lincoln. The academy runs financial education courses for women on low income, teaching them about debt, living on a budget, building a nest for the future, extra income streams, poverty tax and various other topics.

All the courses are accredited by the CPD and people will get qualifications at the end. The courses range from £27 to membership options, including £349 which includes one-on-one coaching, access to private groups and an intense programme for a year.

Stephanie also runs Femme Finance Abuse – free tools and support to help women recover from financial abuse, who will spend a year with the academy, funded by other organisations. There is also the option to do courses as well as being signposted for counselling and life coaching.

She has also gone into schools to give talks and provides a masterclass at Lincoln College, as well as having lots of free resources online.

She wants to make it accessible to everyone and also believes key financial skills should be taught in schools as part of the curriculum.

Stephanie said: “Money creates so much stress and I want to support them and for them to be in a financial situation where they don’t need to rely on anyone else.

“I understand finances now and having the right mindset. I have gone from being sick, tired and worried about money to having a safety net, so that if I do suffer any financial hardship I have that safety net to fall back on.”

Stephanie receiving an award at a gala in London, which was presented by Chloë Bisson, a co-founder of Queens In Business.

Not only is Stephanie now running a successful business, but earlier this year she fought off competition from around 800 nominees to be crowned Female Entrepreneur of the Year, which is run by Queens In Business. International speaker Jessen James won the Male Entrepreneur of the Year award.

In addition, Stephanie was named as Mrs Lincolnshire Galaxy 2021 this summer after being nominated by some of her clients. Unfortunately, she missed the UK finals as it clashed with the Queens In Business awards.

Stephanie said: “The reason why this meant so much, and why I accepted it, is because Lincoln saved my life. I could have lost my son to the care system if it hadn’t been for all the love Lincoln has given me.

“We have multiple refuges in Lincoln and this city has saved hundreds of women’s lives who have fled domestic violence. In Birchwood alone you can see so many single mums from out of the refuges, who have been embraced by Lincoln.”

Female and Male Entrepreneur of the Year Stephanie Wilson and Jessen James.

Stephanie is determined to raise more awareness saying the academy is “not about being a feminist, it’s about women understanding they have different money challenges to men, such as the pay gap and maternity leave, and to embrace those differences and overcome the challenges”.

The Femme Finance Academy has helped a high number of women including single mum-of-two Charlie Moss, who works part-time and relies on Universal Credit for help.

Stephanie and her son Ethan doing the Lincoln Imp Trail earlier this year.

Charlie, who now has six income streams, told The Lincolnite: “I couldn’t work because of childcare issues. Stephanie helped me reduce my outgoings without restricting us. She then helped me clear the high interest items I had such as kid’s bedroom furniture.

“I have a qualification in personal finance now and have created an emergency fund of over £1,000 using money from an extra income brain storming session. I run car boots, buy and sell items, babysit, and work as a freelance proof reader. I now also run a small business making cakes in which I use this money to save and invest.

“I’ve gone from being stuck in a failure as a mum position to knowing how to bring in extra money if I need to. I definitely feel worthy of my kids and my life now and I don’t feel like a stereotypical benefits mum anymore.”

Stephanie Wilson with her husband Nathan at the Queens In Business award ceremony.

Although her business focuses solely on women, Stephanie firmly believes there should be a similar service for men too.

Her husband Nathan lost his job during the coronavirus pandemic, which Stephanie said left him feeling emasculated as he wasn’t able to provide for his family as much and had a lot of pressure on his shoulders.

Nathan has since launched his own business called Dads Advocates, which supports men who have separated from their partners and want access to their children.

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