Jolly Josh founder Carole Ann Kelly named on The Independent’s annual Happy List

Date published: 01 September 2022

Jolly Josh founder Carole Ann Kelly has been named on The Independent’s annual Happy List, which honours 50 of Britain’s most inspirational individuals.

Jolly Josh was founded in 2017 by Carole and James Kelly, after discovering there were no groups for young disabled children in Rochdale. The group was named after their young son, Josh, who was diagnosed with the genetic condition Mitochondrial Disease at the age of six months. The condition causes mutations in mitochondria, vital to every cell in the body, with Josh confirmed to have ‘extensive brain damage’ as a result.

After his condition deteriorated, Josh died on 27 August 2017, just one month before Jolly Josh was due to begin.

The stay-and-play sessions were set up with the hope to bring families together, provide peer to peer support, share experiences, and eliminate isolation, especially for children with disabilities and special needs throughout the borough.

Originally hosted at Springside School, the charity was given 10 years’ worth of free rent at Ensor Mill by local businessman, the late Peter Cordwell in 2019.

The Jolly Josh centre opened in April 2022 and is fully accessible for a range of needs and disabilities with specialist interactive sensory equipment for the children and their families to enjoy together.


James and Carole with their children
James and Carole with their eldest child, Sophie and Josh


Carole, who was Woman of Rochdale 2019, said: "I'll always be so proud of James and I for the way that we channeled our grief to make positive change for families like ours, in Josh's memory. It's been five years of relentless voluntary work, but we've achieved more than we could ever have imagined for those with children who have PMLD and Complex Medical Needs.

"Our families now have the most amazing, accessible place to call home (designed by James, with thanks to PGC, Kerf and all our other sponsors and fundraisers) and we're excited to see the charity develop as our families begin to create a community at the Jolly Josh centre."

The Independent’s Happy List was founded in 2008 to celebrate “ordinary people who do amazing things for important causes and inspire positive change.”

The 50 people for 2022 have been chosen by a panel from scores of nominations received from the readers of The Independent. 

The named individuals are not ranked 1-50 because “it would be impossible to measure the successes of these individuals against each other.”

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