Profits from sales of carrier bags at River Island stores throughout the UK are funding vital disability equipment for children. Through Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, River Island is helping to provide specialist beds and car seats, hi-tech wheelchairs, standing frames, buggies, seating, video monitors and communication aids. Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.
Ten-year-old Eliza from Leamington Spa in Warwickshire is one of the latest children to benefit from this life-changing nationwide initiative. With Bag Levy funding from River Island – and a £400 contribution from her family – Newlife has given Eliza a specialist buggy so she can get out and about in safety and comfort. Eliza has a diagnosis of epilepsy and severe learning disabilities. Her condition means she tires easily and needs somewhere to sit in comfort and safety when she is out and about, especially if she has a seizure or is overwhelmed in unfamiliar or busy surroundings.
Her mum said: “Eliza is mobile but gets very tired, very quickly – she is exhausted most of the time. She also struggles to understand what’s expected of her in social situations and has no real sense of danger. We didn’t want to put her in a wheelchair – and buggies for older, larger children aren’t available on the mainstream market. When she was three years old we bought a second-hand special needs buggy but Eliza grew far too big for that – it became virtually impossible to push – so we stopped going out very far. Eliza has daily seizures and each one can last a while; if she feels tired she will just lie down, wherever she is, even if that’s in a puddle of mud.”
Eliza’s family started to look round for a larger special needs buggy, but there was a nasty surprise in store. “We were absolutely shocked to discover how much these cost.”
The equipment for Eliza was £2,487, and with no funding available from local statutory services the family turned to Newlife for help. Eliza’s mum said “The new buggy is so much lighter and easier to push – and it has proper brakes on it! It has a five-point harness to keep Eliza secure and it supports her so she can have a snooze when she is tired or is recovering post-seizure. There is also a huge amount of growing room in it so it will take her into adulthood.”
She added: “Having the buggy was a huge help during last week’s school half-term. Without it we would have been stuck in the house for the week – and there is something about being able to get out and about that lifts the spirits. We went for a long walk almost every day this half term: into the woods, to our local park and we even went to a community cafe for breakfast which was a definite highlight! Eliza’s brother was able to push her (at quite a speed) when we went out to a local country park – an adventure which they both really enjoyed.”
Eliza is due to have invasive surgery in January, to remove an area of her brain in a bid to halt the seizures. Her mum said: “It will be a long recovery period, so the buggy will be vital for getting her to and from hospital appointments and getting out of the house for fresh air.”
Newlife Foundation CEO Sheila Brown said: “As local authority budget cuts continue to bite, more and more families are turning to charities like Newlife for specialist equipment which can help transform young lives. Having the national support of River Island is an enormous boost for us.”
Newlife has funded specialist equipment for 215 children in Warwickshire, at a cost of £244,498. If you think you could help a local child, go to www.newlifecharity.co.uk/warwickshire for further details.
Pictured: Eliza Dyer