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River Island is doing something fantastic with the plastic profits from the sales of carrier bags – funding a range of specialist disability equipment. Tyne and Wear one-year-old Ellie Hewitt is one of the children to benefit from this life-changing nationwide initiative. Provision of a specialist seat is helping her to sit upright, while being properly supported and comfortable.

Ellie, from Gateshead, was just six days old when she contracted a virus which left her with brain damage. As a result she has Cerebral Palsy affecting both her arms and legs and is unable to sit up on her own. But specialist seating will soon allow her to sit upright and be more involved with family life, much to the joy of her parents Jen and George and brother Nathan, aged three.

Ellie also has an infantile form of epilepsy and experiences muscle spasms, which means her arms and legs jerk uncontrollably. This makes it difficult for her to be in a comfortable position for long, so mum Jen will spend much of her time holding her in her arms – but this makes it hard to interact with her or play.

Ellie was able to use the seating when it was recommended by her specialist during a hospital stay – and once her family saw the benefits, they knew it was just what they needed at home. Not only does the seat provide all the support Ellie needs to be upright, she will be able to properly play with her three-year-old brother Nathan.

However, with no local statutory funding available for the £468 seating, the family turned to Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children for help. Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of essential equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.

The seat will now be provided by Newlife with support from fashion retail chain River Island, which currently donates all the profit from the sale of carrier bags at its stores across the UK – like the one at the Metro Centre in Gateshead – to the innovative charity.

Jen said: “Day to day life is quite challenging, but when Ellie is in the seat she will be able to sit upright, which is something she isn’t able to do on her own yet, although she is building up her strength.

“She will be able to relax in the seat while being supported and even bend her knees so that she doesn’t spasm. It will help her be much more interactive too – she can play and look around at everything going on around her which will also help her development.”

As the seat is mobile it means that Ellie can be wherever the rest of the family is and mum can carry on with other aspects of family life, knowing her daughter is safe.

Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “As local authority budget cuts continue to bite, more and more families are turning to charities like Newlife for specialist equipment which can have a significant effect on young lives. Having the national support of River Island is an enormous boost for us.”

To find out more about how Newlife supports local families, go to: The charity is currently working with a further ten families in the area, with equipment needs totalling £9,721. If you think you could help a local child, go to the website and Donate. Alternatively, contact the Newlife County Liaison Team on 01543 431 444, email