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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 the one in the Kings Mall Shopping Centre – all profits from sales of carrier bags are donated to national charity Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children.

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

Local teenager Katie Dawson, who lives in Chelsea, is one of the children to benefit from this life-changing nationwide initiative. Specialist audio equipment is helping her filter out background noise so she has improved communication with teachers, friends and family members.

Katie, a pupil at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital School, said: “This helps me every day – I find it easier to concentrate which means learning is easier and less confusing.”

Katie, 13, has been diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder, which means she struggles to filter out background noises. Her dad, the Rev Paul Dawson, said: “Auditory processing disorder is different to deafness. Although she does have mild hearing loss the bigger problem for her is distinguishing different sounds. The very specific piece of equipment recommended by Great Ormond Street Hospital is not something the local education authority will provide, so GOSH suggested we contact Newlife.”

The charity has worked in partnership with GOSH to establish the hospital’s Newlife Birth Defects Research Centre and funds research projects within the complex.

With Bag Levy funding from River Island, Newlife has given Katie a specialist transmitter and receiver, at a cost of £1,784, so she can concentrate on what people around her are saying.

The Rev Dawson said: “It is a good system for Katie and has been really helpful for her in all aspects of her daily life. At school she hands the transmitter to her teachers and she wears the receiver, so she can focus on whoever is speaking. Having the ability to concentrate means she can access teaching and learning more efficiently which makes school more enjoyable and less frustrating.”

He added: “Katie is a member of the local church youth club and the equipment comes with a pen-shaped device which she can use in group situations; she just points it at whoever is talking and she can keep up with conversations much better than she used to and therefore is less isolated socially.”

Katie also suffers from crippling chronic migraines, which hinder her reading. The new audio system enables her to enjoy ‘talking books’ instead. “This is wonderful for Katie,” said her dad, “because now she can listen to books when her head hurts too much to read.”

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 go to

Newlife has funded specialist equipment for 815 children in Greater London, at a cost of £1,016,408. If you think you could help a local child, go to for further details.

Pictured: Katie Dawson