Last Friday I got to meet Ant & Dec. However - surprising as this may sound and lovely as they were - that wasn't the highlight of the night. By a long shot, that was being sung to by pupils of Hadrian School in Newcastle, all of whom have special educational needs. I've never heard a better rendition of a Take That song. I was highly moved and filled with joy all at once.
The event was organised by The Sunshine Fund, which provides specialist equipment to children with disabilities across the North East, and for which I am about to become a trustee. Enquiries to the charity have risen 35% this year due to the recession so its fundraising efforts have never been more important or needed.
Hearing about how much equipment costs families in need is sobering indeed. Those needing trikes, IT equipment, wheelchairs, profiling beds and sensory equipment to give their child the best quality of life, face bills of thousands of pounds. As such, without access to The Sunshine Fund grants, many go without. That can mean children and families never leaving the house, no independence for the children as they grow and a very limited existence for all concerned.
As part of the evening, we watched a DVD of a family brave enough to talk honestly about their experience of having a disabled child. Like all parents, they had hoped for a healthy baby and after a normal pregnancy, that's what they expected. Sadly that was not to be and while their family is full of love, laughter and real strength, they also face daily challenges that most of us can't possibly imagine.
So this is a little plea for help. It's a hard environment out there, especially for charities. But if you can, please consider donating to The Sunshine Fund. There are lots of ways to do this; from participating in events and texting cash donations to becoming a corporate sponsor. You'll have my thanks - but most of all, your donation, no matter how small, will change the life of someone local. There can surely be no better reward than that.
Here are a few case studies worth reading: £1,030 would provide a trike to a boy aged 3 from Morpeth who has Cerebral Palsy. The little boy is unable to sit independently, crawl or walk without assistance of an adult and unable to use a traditional bike. The trike will be custom made with the supports needed and would allow the boy to play and be mobile with family and friends, it would also help his physical fitness and help with co-ordination.
£2,079 would provide a standing frame to a boy aged 10 from Newcastle who has White Matter Disorder and sensory and hearing impairments. This equipment will allow him to stand alone and be mobile around the home, the boy has recently had an operation and now really requires this equipment to get him motivated to walk and to help stretch his muscles, it will help him to be more independent.
£330 would provide a iPad to a teenage boy aged 15 from Annitsford who has Autism. The boy is very motivated by computers and the internet and his family would like this equipment to help him to do his school work at the home, he is currently struggling and falling behind in educational activities. He uses an iPad at school which he uses confidently and has helped structure his daily routine, this is what the family would like to do at home.