Generous donations from two leading Northern Ireland businesses mean UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation can provide desperately needed specialist equipment for all of the children it is currently supporting in the region.
A cheque for £12,000 from County Antrim-based clothing manufacturer N. M. Williams (UK) Limited and an additional £1,217 from Greiner Packaging Ltd in County Tyrone means at least ten children will receive their equipment – ranging from pain-relieving beds and a specialist buggy to a car seat and sensory equipment – as soon as suppliers can deliver.
Newlife Fundraising Manager Nora Smith said: “This is fantastic news for Newlife, but more importantly for the families of the children we are currently working with across Northern Ireland. I can’t thank the donors enough.”
Newlife last year awarded £1.2million in equipment grants to children across the UK, including 25 in Northern Ireland.
The £12,000 from N. M. Williams comes from a fantastic corporate donation, while the £1,217 was raised by dedicated members of staff at Greiner Packaging who took part in this year’s Belfast Marathon. Greiner Packaging HR Manager Pauline Hillen said: “We had 18 members of staff divided into four teams taking part in the relay category of the race. Everyone really got into the fundraising spirit and enjoyed the atmosphere of the race itself. This was the first year Greiner Packaging has entered a fundraising team into the Belfast Marathon, but it is likely to become an annual fixture for our staff.”
Among those now set to receive disability equipment are five-year-old Madilyn Melville, from County Antrim, and ten-year-old Talitha McClenahan, from County Armagh. They both need specialist beds costing £3,849 and £4,978 respectively.
Madilyn, from Birch Hill Park in County Antrim, needs a specialist bed to help prevent her from injuring herself while she is asleep.
Madilyn was born with complex disabilities including epilepsy, scoliosis and learning difficulties. Her motor skills are impaired and she is reliant on her parents and carers in all aspects of everyday life. The new bed will be used in conjunction with a sleep system which will help prevent long-term problems caused by scoliosis.
Mum Lynne Hutton said: “We were offered a standard hospital bed for Madilyn, but it just wasn’t suitable as it didn’t have any protective sides. Madilyn rolls around a lot while she is in bed, often bruising herself as she hits the cot rails, and she really needs a safe environment.”
The bed that best suits her needs, with a height adjustable platform and easy access panels, is now on order. Lynne said: “It is good to know it will be here any day now.”
Madilyn isn’t alone in her urgent need of a specialist bed. In County Armagh, ten-year-old Talitha McClenahan is in a similar situation.
*Talitha, from Loughgall, has Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy and, because of her limited communication skills, is dependent on her parents for all her needs.
Mum Deborah McClenahan said: “Talitha has grown out of her toddler bed; a regular single bed is not suitable for her needs and local statutory services can only supply an adult-sized specialist bed which will not fit into the room she shares with her 12-year-old sister.”
The equipment which best suits her medical requirements will offer Talitha, who is the size of a five-year-old, appropriate support to ensure her muscles are stretched, maintain her posture and aid her circulation, breathing and digestion. It is height adjustable, which will help her parents care for her at a workable level, and tilts in sections to enable her to be easily propped up when she is being nursed through chest infections to which she is susceptible. It also has high side rails which will prevent Talitha from falling out of bed.
Deborah said: “Statutory services will not provide this sort of bed. Their suggestion regarding the fact that the model they can supply will not fit into the bedroom was to put it in the living room. This would be totally unsuitable, especially as we have seven children.”
Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “Our equipment grants are so vital to so many children, offering practical support to families in need. Equipment can range from specialist beds like the ones for Madilyn and Talitha to hoists, from wheelchairs to therapy aids. Equipment that costs from hundreds to several thousands of pounds really can revolutionise a child’s life.”
Anyone wanting to support the charity can call the community fundraising team on 01543 468888.
Newlife is experiencing hugely increased demands on its resources; calls to the Newlife Nurse helpline – 0800 902 0095 – have shot up by 73 per cent. This is an average of 300 calls a week, with thousands more hits on the charity’s website www.newlifecharity.co.uk
“Because of the huge demand,” said Sheila, “we are calling on ‘local heroes’ to help us raise money to help fund equipment in Northern Ireland. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of any gift or donation will go directly to disabled children in the region.”
The Newlife Community Fundraising Team can be contacted on 01543 462777 or 0800 988 4640.
* Pictured below