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Six-year-old Dakota Thompson Martin is the only wheelchair user at her school – and she longs to have more independence, just like her friends.

Dakota, who has Cerebral Palsy as a result of being born prematurely, is a pupil at Mount Church of England Primary School in Newark. She is able to walk short distances, but relies on a bulky manual wheelchair for longer distances and those days when her legs just don’t work as well.

Mum Cara Thompson said: “Dakota is very aware of her disability and how much she relies on other people to push her around – and what the average six-year-old should be doing.”

The wheelchair is too heavy for Dakota to self-propel very far, so whether she is at school, at home, on school trips or out with the family, she constantly needs other people’s help.

Cara added: “She is very independent and it can often be the silly things that affect her most – like not being able to walk the dog with us in the local park or go on the nature trail with her three-year-old brother. Having a standard manual wheelchair with front wheels that don’t cope with anything other than flat, hard surfaces restricts what she can do – and what we can do as a family.”

Dakota travels to school in her wheelchair, which is then generally stored away during the day because it is too big to properly negotiate her classroom. However, on those days when she is less mobile and still needs the bulky wheelchair, furniture has to be moved out of her classroom to make space for her to manoeuvre.

Cara said: “Then she feels bad because she has had to use her wheelchair – so she doesn’t always tell the staff when she is feeling unwell. Unfortunately, that means that when she gets home she is even more tired and poorly than usual. And it makes her even more aware of her disability.”

A more compact and powered wheelchair would help make Dakota’s dreams of independence come true – but the multi-terrain equipment she needs costs £6,145. So her parents turned to leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation for help.

Last year (2013/14) Newlife funded 1,303 Equipment Grants totalling £2,088,105 for disabled and terminally ill children around the UK. This was a 33 per cent increase on the previous 12 months.

Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “With statutory services across the UK implementing continued budget cuts, we expect to see more and more families turn to Newlife Foundation for help. That’s why we’re appealing for ‘local heroes’ to come forward and donate or fundraise to help a disabled or terminally ill child in their county – with every penny going directly to fund vital equipment.”

If you would like to help Dakota realise her dreams of independence, the Newlife Community Fundraising Team can be contacted on freephone 0800 988 4640 or email Any money raised surplus to requirements for Dakota would be used to fund essential equipment for other children in Nottinghamshire.

Newlife is currently working with five families in the county, with equipment needs totalling £11,735. This includes a second Newark family, who need specialist seating costing £2,549 so their son has somewhere comfortable to sit at home.

To find out more about the range of equipment grant and loan support services offered by the charity, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline on freephone 0800 902 0095 or email Dakota Thompson Martin 

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