A TRAGIC story was turned on its head by a remarkable family, Julie and Paul Connaughton and their children, Abbi and James.

James was born 19 years ago as a fit and healthy baby at James Cook Hospital, but shortly afterwards he suffered respiratory issues and was in intensive care. Two weeks later the family were told he had suffered extensive brain injuries and the doctors had no magic solution to make him better.

“We knew we had to make something positive come out of this devastating news,” said Paul. “We knew he was a special little boy who needed two special people to fight his corner, but we were concerned that if anything happened to us he could get taken away, and so we developed the idea of a farm where he could grow old with us, and also have the best of care with other families.”

And after a journey where they never gave up their dream, it became a reality, as tucked away on the A172 between Stokesley and Carlton village, is JPC Community Farm, and the Orangery Bistro.

Whilst looking for funding to get started, their story went viral. They were named Inspirational Parents of the Year by a local paper, and were introduced to Kevin Appleby, chief executive of the charity, Best Bespoke Supportive Tenancies. He was immediately supportive and said it would be a flagship project, something that had never been done before.

This meeting was the gateway to a funding company called Supportive Living Infrastructure Limited. However, they had to convince the investors.

“It was like Dragons’ Den,” said Paul. “We met Dimitrios Hatzis, who finds projects for the investors, and put our pitch at £ 1.4m. We watched him doing some calculations, then he turned the calculator around for us to see £1.7m written there. ‘Go and buy your farm,’ he said.”

They had saved money as the farm needed some conversion, and with help from Hambleton Housing Benefit they are now able to accommodate 23 special needs adults from 18 to 65 years, in bespoke rooms in beautiful surroundings.

There is also an educational facility set up by ex-teacher and training director, Barbara Wilberforce, who has worked with special needs children, and encourages residents to find and develop skills.

Neal Bullock is also a director and the chef of the Orangery Bistro. He is the founder member of the Teesside Family Foundation and met Paul while they were both raising money for Ward 14 at James Cook hospital. Neal helped to write the outline on how to utilise the land and use the farm as a training facility, staffed partly with the residents. The Bistro is a huge hit and profits go back into the farm.

“I like the rooms here and the staff are really friendly, “ said Rebecca Ross, a potential resident, who was looking around the facility with her mum. “I’d like to try it for a holiday. It’s made a good impression on me.”

Matthew Garner, 23, who is the ambassador for JPC Motorsports, said: “Paul has introduced me to new ventures. His motivation is endless, focusing on my ability, not my disability.”