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When you are asked to pay five pence for a carrier bag in a store have you ever wondered what happens to the money? Well, in the case of River Island outlets – like those across the Bristol area – profits from sales of carrier bags are donated to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.

Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.

River Island is doing something fantastic with the plastic profits – funding a range of specialist disability equipment.

Local three-year-old Lillie Short from Brislington in Bristol is one of the children to benefit from this life-changing nationwide initiative. She now has a specialist chair so she can sit in comfort and safety while she is fed through a tube in her stomach.

Lillie has a diagnosis of Dravet Syndrome, a rare and debilitating form of epilepsy which has associated health issues including low body tone, which means she needs constant postural support. She is fed through a tube in her stomach three times a day (this takes about an hour and a half each time) – and being able to sit up helps reduce reflux and the risk of choking.

At home, Lillie had been using a specialist chair called a PPod to keep her in an appropriate postural position. But she had outgrown this and the only secure alternative was her bed or a specialist functional seat; however, because the latter is rigid and Lillie’s muscles can’t support her body, she can only tolerate it for around half an hour.

With Bag Levy funding from River Island, Newlife has given Lillie a new, larger PPod, so she can sit in comfort while she is fed; the equipment is also portable, so she can remain at the heart of family life.

Mum Kelly Short said: “Lillie uses a wheelchair for school – going from that to her functional chair was like sitting on a dining room chair all day, whereas the PPod is like sitting on the sofa in terms of comfort. The PPod gives her the opportunity to chill out but still be posturally supported. And the five-point harness means she can’t slip off.

“Now, when Lillie gets home from school, she can’t wait to get into the PPod. When it is nice we can wheel her out into the garden, so she can be wherever we are. And if Lillie is in the middle of a feed, we can move her around without any inconvenience or discomfort for her.”

Kelly added: “Lillie has gone from being a ‘normal’ 18-month-old to being completely dependent on us. Our lives have been turned upside down in the last few months, so getting support like this does help make a difference.”

Newlife Foundation CEO Sheila Brown added: “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.”

She added: “Anyone struggling to access equipment through their statutory services should call our Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines and mobiles) to discuss their individual situation.” If you would like to find out more about Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children and how to access its services, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline or go to

Newlife has funded specialist equipment for 179 children in Somerset, at a cost of £238,331. If you think you could help a child in the county – Newlife is currently working with a further 11 families in Somerset with equipment needs totalling £11,557 – go to for further details.

Pictured: Lillie Short