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A 15-year-old boy from Kearsley in Bolton is finding his ‘voice’ – using a specialist communication aid that will help him ‘talk’ to school friends and teachers as well as his family at home.

Rhys Campanelle has autism with severe communication delay. He is not able to speak and can become frustrated when he can’t make his needs known. Speech therapists at his school – Firwood in Bolton – helped Rhys successfully trial the equipment for two weeks, but there was no local funding available to buy him his own £3,064 communication aid.

Dad Steve Campanelle turned to leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation for help – and now Rhys has his own equipment to help him develop his independence. Steve said: “I am still getting used to the equipment – Rhys’s speech therapists are helping me familiarise myself with it – but Rhys is really good with technology and loves using it.”

The equipment can be programmed with increasingly complicated functions to help Rhys widen his vocabulary as he progresses through school.

Newlife Foundation has funded 260 Equipment Grants for disabled and terminally ill babies, children and young people in Lancashire totalling £422,273. But as statutory cuts continue, Newlife is seeing a surge in demand for its range of equipment provision services.

Newlife CEO Sheila Brown said: “Last year (2013/14), Newlife awarded 33 per cent more Equipment Grants than the previous 12 month period – a total of £2,088,105. So we are calling on ‘local heroes’ to donate or fundraise to help disabled children in their own counties. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of all monies donated or fundraised in Lancashire will be used to provide specialist equipment for children in Lancashire. That could be anything from a specialist wheelchair, bed or seating to a stair climber, standing or walking frame.

“Right now, we are working with the families of a further five children in the county, with equipment needs totalling £7,211.”

If you would like to help other disabled children in Lancashire like Rhys, the Newlife Community Fundraising team can be contacted on 0800 988 4640 (free from UK landlines) or by emailing

For more information about Newlife Foundation, go to All support services can be accessed via the Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 (free from UK landlines) or email

Pictured: Rhys Campanelle