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Five-year-old Charlie Blunt is the 100th child to be provided with specialist equipment thanks to the charity partnership between Midlands Co-operative Society and Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.

Charlie, from Dosthill in Staffordshire, has Cerebellar Atrophy; he is missing the part of the brain which controls balance and muscle movement. He can only walk short distances, with the help of a walking frame, but cannot negotiate uneven surfaces and is easily tired.

Fed up with being pushed around in a buggy most of the time, Charlie needed a lightweight manual wheelchair to propel himself around and gain a bit of independence.

The cost of the equipment – £1,762 – prompted Charlie’s mum Laura Burrell to turn to Staffordshire-based national children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation for help. Newlife is Midlands Co-operative’s staff-elected charity; Co-op colleagues and customers have raised more than £226,000 which has funded 124 items of disability equipment since the partnership was launched in May 2012.

Laura said: “Charlie was given the opportunity to trial a wheelchair at school – he is in Year 1 at Dosthill Primary. He was absolutely brilliant and got the hang of it in seconds because it is light-weight and easy to use.”

She added: “Having this wheelchair will help Charlie gain his independence at school and enable him to keep up with his friends in the playground. It is also essential for use at home. At the moment Charlie crawls around the house but we had been worried about the long-term impact this would have on his knees. It will also stop him getting trampled on by other children at parties!”

Football-loving Charlie likes nothing better than going along to watch the action at Aston Villa. Laura said: “Being able to manoeuvre himself around to enjoy the match will put a huge smile on his face.”

Newlife Foundation CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “Partnerships like this one with Midlands Co-operative Society help us meet the needs of a growing number of vulnerable families. Co-operative colleagues and customers know that every penny of every pound they raise is spent on specialist equipment – and we report back on how their money is changing children’s lives.”

Newlife Foundation offers a range of practical services for families of disabled and terminally ill children across the UK. In Staffordshire alone, the charity has funded 501 Equipment Grants totalling £757,130. In addition, it provides an emergency equipment loan service – Just Can’t Wait – for families of children receiving end-of-life care and offers three-month loans of Kit Boxes of sensory and developmental aids for under-19s with complex needs.

Pictured: Charlie Blunt, who is due to take delivery of his lightweight wheelchair this month, with mum Laura.

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