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A partnership between Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children and Marks and Spencer means five-year-old Charlie Pym can continue to sleep in safety, thanks to the donation of a specialist bed.

Charlie, from Kings Hill near West Malling, has a diagnosis of Autistic Spectrum Disorder. He has no awareness of danger and would climb out of bed, tangling himself in his window blinds and pulling down the curtain pole. He would also regularly empty his clothes drawers and had even burned himself by standing against the radiator.

Charlie’s occupational therapist recommended he have a specialist safety bed – but local statutory services didn’t have the resources. So mum Kelly Marshall contacted Newlife – which quickly responded with an Emergency Equipment Loan. Kelly said: “I had ended up having to sleep under the window in Charlie’s room to help keep him safe – so getting a high-sided safety bed has made a huge difference. Charlie still doesn’t sleep through the night, but he is sleeping better, thanks to this equipment. It also means I have peace of mind knowing that while I am asleep he can’t hurt himself.”

Newlife’s Emergency Equipment Loans are for life-limited and terminally ill children and those sleeping in unsafe environments – like Charlie. However, loans are only for around six months and it was obvious that he would need continued support.

A partnership between Newlife – the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness – and Marks & Spencer is now funding permanent provision, at a cost of £4,714.

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 240 pieces of essential equipment, totalling in excess of £815,000 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.”

Sheila Brown OBE, chief executive of Newlife charity, added: “Our partnership with M&S benefits hundreds of children and their families. It is very encouraging to see the efforts of M&S in helping to improve the lives of disabled and terminally ill children within the local community and across the UK. Equipment that costs hundreds to several thousands of pounds really can transform lives. We are very grateful to everyone involved and would encourage other groups and individuals to keep fundraising to help us make a difference."

Newlife has helped provide £385,129 of equipment for 322 under-19s in Kent. Right now, the charity is currently working with another 18 families in the county with equipment needs totalling £17,695.

To find out more about how Newlife supports families in Kent go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/kent. The website includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email local@newlifecharity.co.uk – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families in the county.

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

Pictured: Charlie Pym

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