For Danny Kay, the past year has been a whirlwind.
The 37-year-old married long-term partner Christine last month, three months after the birth of daughter Bethany.
But it was in stark contrast to the couple’s fortunes five years ago.
At that time they were at a crossroads having been told it was unlikely they would be able to have a child of their own.
However, as Danny says, “life has a funny way of doing things sometimes”, and just a month later they became “kinship carers” of then two-year-old Zac through a family connection.
A kinship carer refers to anyone who cares for a grandchild, niece, nephew, brother or sister and this Monday, the entire family will join hundreds of other carers from across the city as the Big Hearts foundation celebrates a year of a pioneering scheme with a family fun day at Tynecastle.
Danny and Christine had been recommended as kinship carers in 2011 by social workers in an attempt to keep Zac as close to family as possible. “We were asked as a way of stopping Zac being taken into care down south,” said Danny.
“At that time, I wouldn’t say we were desperate for a kid, but we were definitely starting to question if we would be able to.
“So when Zac came along we were delighted, but I don’t think we realised kinship carers were really a thing until social workers started describing us as that.”
Over the last five years, the couple had been involved with various kinship care groups, although none of them quite fitted around Danny’s schedule as a glazier, before a suggestion from a Barnardo’s worker to contact the pioneering Big Hearts scheme captured his imagination.
“I’m a big Hearts fan and I’d been trying to take Zac along for a while so when I heard they were doing this kind of scheme, it was a big incentive for me to go along,” he said.
“Zac – now six – was diagnosed with ADHD a while ago, so I was a bit apprehensive, but it’s quite good, because you’re with carers and kids who are in the same situation, so they understand if he is maybe having a moment.
“They are able to offer support and guidance if we’re having issues and we’re around people who aren’t going to judge Zac for who he is.” As an official charity arm of Hearts, kids and carers are often surprised with visits from current and past players at their after-school club, which Zac regularly attends.
And, according to Danny, it’s moments like that which make it all worthwhile.
“His favourite player is Callum Paterson – he argues with me at times because I give him a bit of stick,” he said.
“But he came along once and seeing Zac’s reaction when he got to meet him was just fantastic, his face just lit up, it’s one of those where you’re so thankful to the club for what they’ve done for us.”
A spokesperson for Mentor UK, the charity’s official partner, said the club was making great strides in eradicating the stigma surrounding kinship carers.
“Our link with Hearts is vital in reaching the estimated 20,000 kinship carers across Scotland,” she said. “We want to end the stigma that kinship carers have and Hearts pull from their support is crucial in helping us do that.”