A donation of more than £70,000 will help Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children operate its successful sensory toy loan service for a full 12 months.
The award of £70,200 from the Morrisons Foundation will support Newlife's Play Therapy Pod (PTP) service providing specialist toys direct to families' homes all across the UK. This will enable 1,000 PTP loans.
Newlife has almost 400 Pods, which each contain around £400 worth of toys, and are aimed at a variety of ages and disability needs. Interactive toys help improve hand-eye co-ordination, auditory toys encourage interaction with others through play and sound and tactile toys stimulate touch and encourage motor function.
Free of charge and loaned for between 12 and 16 weeks, the Play Therapy Pods are designed to stimulate senses as well as help children be comforted and distracted from pain through play.
The generous grant from the Morrisons Foundation will help more children like four year-old Arjun Malik from Leicestershire and two-year-old Isaac O'Connor from Liverpool.
Buying toys for little Arjun is not easy because he has Downs Syndrome and is hearing impaired. He needs extra stimulation and specialist toys have helped him explore different forms of play.
Over the past two years, Arjun has been provided with the loan of interactive, tactile and auditory Play Therapy Pods from Newlife, and his mum, Sarmi Malik, is delighted with his progress. She said: "I can see that he is genuinely learning and has come such a long way."
She added: "Because specialist toys for children are so expensive, Play Therapy Pods are a great way for me to find out what Arjun enjoys. I would never have thought to buy him toys like these but they work in a completely different way than standard high street toys. His favourites included a teddy bear that plays peek-a-boo. It's been wonderful to see him improve and play with toys that are suitable for him and his needs."
Isaac has the rare genetic condition Coffin-Lowry Syndrome. As a result he has developmental delay and learning difficulties - but an instant play success was the ‘Tranquil Turtle' which projects an underwater effect on the ceiling and plays soothing music and sounds of ocean waves.
Isaac's mum Kate Fenneberg is a Special Educational Needs and disability link worker so knew all about Newlife and its range of support services. She said: "Isaac and his three-year-old brother both love the turtle so we all have a bit of a wind-down together at the end of the day. With specialist toys being so expensive it's good to be able to ‘try before you buy'."
"Isaac has only just started sitting up and can now play with his toys on the floor. Other toys in the pod are helping him develop new skills and interact with his brother."
The Morrisons Foundation, a charity set up by the supermarket which donates funds generated by the sale of single-use carrier bags, awards grants for charity projects which make a positive difference to people's lives. Since launching in 2015 over £10 million has been donated to charities throughout England, Scotland and Wales.
David Scott, trustee of the Morrisons Foundation, said: "Having access to specialist play equipment is extremely important for children with disabilities, and Newlife's Play Therapy Pod service ensures that hundreds of children across the UK can benefit from toys designed specifically for their needs. We are delighted to have awarded this grant to Newlife and I'm sure that the Play Therapy Pod service will make a real difference over the coming year."
Charities are encouraged to visit www.morrisonsfoundation.com to find out how to apply for a grant.
Application forms for Play Therapy Pods are available online by going to www.newlifecharity.co.uk. Further information about Play Therapy Pods is available from the charity's Care Services Team on 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles).
Pictured: Isaac O'Connor