Fabulous local fundraisers and donors are rallying to help six-year-old Jonty Burger get the powered wheelchair he needs so he can stay at the school where he is happy and thriving.
Since Jonty’s story was featured in the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children has received donations of £2,788 from local wellwishers – and now a pair of local businesses have offered their help.
Tanning By Tara and Mick’s Barbers – which are both based in Church Street, Old Hatfield – have offered to donate ten per cent of their profits each week until the fundraising total of £4,588 has been reached.
Tanning shop owner Tara Covill said: “We have been looking for a charity that works in the local community for us to support. Helping children with disabilities is a cause very close to our hearts and we will be encouraging our customers to support us, in helping Jonty get the equipment and help he so richly deserves and needs. We are very conscious of the limited time Newlife has to raise this funding so we will be putting up posters in the shops to keep our customers informed as well as detailing everything through our Facebook page and other social media.”
She added: “Effectively, when you think of getting your hair cut or going for a sunbed or spray tan you can do so at Mick's Barbers or Tanning by Tara knowing you are making a little boy’s life that much better by coming along and contributing!”
Jonty – who has Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy and epilepsy – loves going to his local school and joining in with his classmates. But that is under threat if his parents can’t secure a £7,588 powered wheelchair before the start of the next school year.
Jonty’s mum Jessica Burger, from Oaklands, Welwyn, says: “He has surpassed all expectations, given his dire prognosis at birth. Jonty’s epilepsy is well controlled – he hasn’t had a seizure since before Christmas – but it can be sparked by overwhelming situations.
“A small school environment is best for him, to help him realise his full potential, so we are very fortunate that he has a place at a local mainstream school where class sizes are smaller than average. He needs one-to-one support, but is thriving – making friends and joining in with everything.
“He currently has a lightweight manual wheelchair, which we funded, and while he can self-propel it around our own home, he relies on adults to push him around at school. However, there is a slope into the early years learning area – and pushing Jonty up and down this breaches health and safety regulations for staff and carers. So to be able to stay at the school he needs a powered wheelchair – but he can’t be considered for a statutory assessment until he has been seizure-free for 12 months. By the time he reaches this point he will already have lost the school place.”
Jessica added: “It’s critical Jonty gets a powered wheelchair in time for the new school year in September, but with an eight-week order turnaround time that means we need the funding in place by mid-July at the latest. There’s not a lot of wriggle room!”
The family have already secured a £3,000 donation from a local charity – but still need to find an additional £4,588. In desperation they turned to Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children – the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for disabled and terminally ill children.
Newlife has supported 188 children in Hertfordshire with specialist equipment totalling £287,155. However, with UK-wide statutory funding cuts resulting in a 64 per cent increase in applications to Newlife over the past five years, the charity is more reliant on public support than at any time in its 25-year history.
So Newlife is looking for ‘local heroes’ to help fund this vital equipment – and quickly. If you would like to help, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/hertfordshire and click on the Donate button next to his story. Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jessica added: “It would mean the world to us to get this equipment for Jonty. Having a hi-tech powered wheelchair would not only enable him to remain at the school where he is settled and happy, with his friends, but give him an element of independence and allow him to explore and develop as a child.”
Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of monies donated or fundraised in Hertfordshire will be used to specifically help children with disabilities and terminal illness in the area. Any money raised surplus to requirements for Jonty will be used to help other local children.
Pictured: Jonty Burger