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Lack of specialist equipment means ten-year-old Melissa Kesterton is denied simple pleasures – like eating at the family dinner table and baking cakes with her mum. All because she needs a specialist height-adjustable seat to support her body.

She had the right equipment until six months ago, but local statutory services took it away because she had outgrown it. They didn’t replace it, instead providing comfort seating.

Melissa, from Peasedown St John in Somerset, has Cerebral Palsy and can’t sit upright without specialist postural support. She uses a wheelchair to get around, but this means there are lots of different surface levels she can’t reach. The kitchen worktop is just one of them.

Melissa’s mum Sophie Kesterton says: “Melissa uses a communication aid to make herself understood – so we know exactly what she thinks she is missing out on. She loves to help me in the kitchen and, until about six months ago, we used to have ‘Tasty Tuesdays’ when we would cook together. That’s when local statutory services took away her old height-adjustable seat.”

Melissa didn’t just use the seat for cooking – currently all family meals are eaten around a coffee table in the living room because her wheelchair isn’t high enough for her to be able to reach the kitchen table.

Sophie said: “It’s the everyday things that most people take for granted that Melissa has been missing out on.”

Now Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children, working in partnership with Marks and Spencer, is putting ‘Tasty Tuesdays’ back on the menu for Melissa by providing the £2,774 seat she needs.

Newlife is the largest UK charity providing specialist equipment and has supported 218 disabled and terminally ill children in Somerset.

M&S has worked in partnership with Newlife since 2006 as part of its Plan A commitments, donating returned products and clothing samples that cannot be sold, to the charity to be resold or recycled. The majority of the donated products are sold in the Newlife SuperStore in Staffordshire and the charity recycles the remaining items, all to raise money for children with disabilities. In October 2010, M&S launched a grants scheme, which has specifically helped fund over 260 pieces of essential equipment, totalling in excess of £850,000 for disabled children in local communities across the UK.

Jacquie Leonard, Community Programme Manager at Marks & Spencer, said: “Our partnership with Newlife is not only great for the environment but it also helps to improve the lives of disabled children by providing much-needed specialist equipment. We are delighted to be able to support such a vital charity.”

Right now, Newlife is currently working with another nine families in Somerset with equipment needs totalling £7,047. To find out how you could help a child near you, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/somerset. Alternatively, contact the Newlife Supporter Relations Team on 01543 462777 or email local@newlifecharity.co.uk.

Newlife Head of Operations Stephen Morgan added: “The UK has more disabled children than ever before – and our partnership with M&S benefits hundreds of children. It’s an outrage that families have to ‘battle’ local services and yet still face heart-breaking refusals. The support of organisations like M&S means we can change lives across the UK every day.”

Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of monies donated or fundraised in Somerset will be used to specifically help children with disabilities and terminal illness in the area.

Pictured: Melissa Kesterton

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