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Fabulous fundraisers at the River Island fashion store in Leeds’ White Rose Shopping Centre have helped two young disabled children in the city get the specialist equipment they need to keep them safe.

Staff took on an in-store cycle challenge, cycling 513 miles in 11 hours, held a bake sale and raffle – and Luke Wilson took on the torment of an upper body wax – all to raise the grand total of £1,710. Now three-year-old Rey Janssens has a buggy to help him get out and about and five-year-old Dominic Johnson is due to get a bed that will meet his sensory needs.

River Island’s White Rose ladies department sales manager Dan Robinson said: “The staff really got behind the fundraising activities for Newlife – it shows the camaraderie and work ethic at the store. Both myself and my manager Adam Swallow were so impressed by their involvement as around 30 people took part in the cycle challenge – putting in time on the bikes before and after their shifts, during their lunchbreaks and even coming in on their day off. Members of the public were fantastic on the day – donating over £200 via collection buckets. It has been a real pleasure raising the funds for Newlife, a charity which River Island has been associated with for many years. And it’s a real boost to the staff to know how their efforts are directly benefitting local disabled children.”

Rey, from the Beeston area of the city, has Autistic Spectrum Disorder and no awareness of danger. Tall for his age, he outgrew his standard buggy and kept trapping his feet under the footplate and in the wheels. Mum Heather Smith said: “Rey could even lean forward and walk the pram away. That, together with getting his feet trapped, made it more and more dangerous to take him out in the buggy. So I only went out with him when I really needed to.”

Rey’s occupational therapist advised Heather to contact Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children for help. Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.

Now, thanks to the fundraising by the White Rose store colleagues, Rey has a larger, special needs buggy. He can’t trap his feet and a five-point harness keeps him secure. Heather said: “It has additional lateral supports which, combined with the hood which wraps around him, makes him feel more secure. At home, Rey likes small, dark places – he finds them very comforting – so having this buggy which wraps around him is soothing for him. It is also higher than a standard buggy so he can see more of what is going on around him.

“As a result Rey is now going out far more than before. He goes out whenever and wherever I go – even if it’s just to the shops. The buggy is brilliant and has come at just the right time, with the bad weather we’re having at the moment.”

A couple of miles away in Middleton, Christine Thornton is getting ready for delivery of a Tough bed for her grandson Dominic.

Dominic also has Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Driven by the need for sensory feedback and routines, Dominic will bounce on his bed for an hour before he goes to sleep each night. Christine said: “He has destroyed several beds this way – and has gashed his face open doing it.”

Dominic’s occupational therapist (OT) told her about special tough furniture, which is designed to meet sensory needs like Dominic’s. But Christine was shocked by the prices. “I just couldn’t afford it,” she said. “The OT gave me a list of charities to contact – but Newlife was the only one that could help.”

She added: “Dominic doesn’t understand risk or danger, so we are having to make our home safe for him. There are special security locks and Perspex windows – and he has dismantled my boiler three times. Everything we do revolves around his safety, so getting the new bed will make a big difference.”

Newlife has provided £468,848 of specialist equipment – including wheelchairs and walkers, stair climbers and communication aids – for 415 children in West Yorkshire. Right now, the charity is working with a further 31 families in the area with needs totalling £45,034. If you would like to find out how you could support a disabled child in West Yorkshire, go to Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, email

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