Extraordinary People

Hero boy, 15, and neighbour, 61, form unlikely friendship to help local community

They say age ain’t nothing but a number, and it’s certainly true for these unlikely pals.

They say age ain’t nothing but a number, and it’s certainly true for these unlikely pals.

Ben Thornbury, 15, and neighbour Julie Taylor, 61, have joined forces to run a volunteer community group. With a casual 46 years between them, they are the best of friends.

The group, called Helping The Community Of Malmesbury, oversees their area in Wiltshire while also taking care of the environment.

And young Ben recently ordered a whopping 225 trees from the Woodlands Trust to plant locally to improve air quality and local habitat – all as a surprise without Julie knowing.

Chatting exclusively to Uspire, Ben’s mum Jo spoke to us to talk about the power pair.

Jo said: “Whatever Ben puts his mind to, he succeeds. The idea came about as he wanted to play his part to help the environment.

“People drive cars and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, affecting greenhouse gases. We want to help, even if it’s going to the shop by foot instead of driving.”

She continued: “Ben managed to find the planting locations by firstly approaching the local council, which proved complicated as he needed licenses should the trees grow.

“Both Ben and Julie went to the council meeting to discuss the idea and decided not to plant on council land.

“Instead, Ben did some research and found there was grassland in our local estate that was owned by a property developer.

“Ben emailed the man responsible for the land and typed it out all by himself.”

Speaking about their friendship, Jo said her son was just seven when he met Julie.

She explained: “Julie wanted help with lawn-mowing, so Ben came with to help me. Ben then slowly started to help Julie on her computer with any technical help she needed.

“Later, they went into community cleaning after a local resident couldn’t pass a hedge near the Co-op in their wheelchair, so Julie decided to go and cut it, and Ben joined in.”

The duo put their handiwork on the local Facebook page, which sparked interest from others in the neighbourhood and prompted them to continue their volunteer cleaning.

Since then, Ben and Julie have become great friends.

They have become even closer over the last few months, after Julie sadly lost her mum in November 2019, with Ben phoning her every day to check-in on her.

Jo said: “Julie is really happy when he does that. They get on so well together, despite the age gap they both just like helping each other.”

Already showing signs of an entrepreneurial flair, Jo says her son’s ambitions for the future are to continue helping locally while also having a job where he can help others.

Asked whether she feels being committed to community can have an impact on wellbeing for young people, Jo said she believes hobbies do improve mental health.

She added: “It definitely does have a positive impact on wellbeing for young people as it gives them something to focus on that keeps people happy and healthy.

“It can make young people feel good about themselves.”

She also revealed that during lockdown, Ben designed a website to help those who couldn’t get out by offering food and prescription deliveries.

Jo concluded: “This just shows his passion for helping the community. Not only this, but Ben is going to be planting wildflowers in the town.”

If you’re local to Ben, find out how he can help you: Malmesbury Coronavirus.

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