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Essex teenager Harry Luxton is getting the chance to be more independent, thanks to a hi-tech wheelchair donated by a leading children’s disability charity with support from Marks and Spencer.

The 15-year-old, who lives with his family in the Harold Wood area of Romford, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle-wasting condition.

Mum Joanne Luxton said: “Harry was diagnosed with the illness aged three-and-a-half, when he was still walking. As time has gone on, this has become harder and Harry has been a full-time wheelchair user for the past four years. He has a powered wheelchair to get him to and from school, but this new equipment enables him to do so much more.

“Harry is a shy boy and because he can’t talk to people at their own eye level he feels he gets overlooked. This new wheelchair has a sit-to-stand facility that pulls him up to head height so he can take a more active part in school life. For instance, he will be able to reach the benches in the science laboratory at Redden Court School where he is a Year 10 pupil. Having opportunities like this will boost his confidence – and his independence.”

Joanne added: “There will be health benefits to having this wheelchair. Being able to stand up will help improve Harry’s bone density and digestion as well as stretching his tightening muscles.”

A partnership between Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children and Marks & Spencer has provided £19,242 for the wheelchair, which is costing a total of £20,742.

Sheila Brown OBE, chief executive of Newlife Foundation, added: “Our partnership with M&S benefits hundreds of children and their families. It is very encouraging to see the efforts of M&S in helping to improve the lives of disabled and terminally ill children within local communities. Equipment that costs hundreds to several thousands of pounds really can transform lives. We are very grateful to everyone involved and would encourage other groups and individuals to keep fundraising to help us make a difference.”

Newlife – the UK’s leading charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness – has helped provide more than £233,000 of equipment for 178 under-19s in Essex. However, the charity is currently working with another 18 families with equipment needs in excess of £24,000.

In response to the growing need in the county, earlier this year the charity launched its Newlife Essex Fund. The fund’s website – – enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and highlights the support the charity gives families. It includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families.

M&S has worked in partnership with Newlife since 2006 as part of its Plan A commitments, donating returned products and clothing samples that cannot be sold, to the charity to be resold or recycled. The majority of the donated products are sold in the Newlife SuperStore in Cannock and the charity recycles the remaining items, all to raise money for children with disabilities. In October 2010, M&S launched a grants scheme, which has specifically helped fund over 200 pieces of essential equipment, totalling £630,000 for disabled children in local communities across the UK.

Jacquie Leonard, Community Programme Manager at Marks & Spencer, said: “Our partnership with Newlife is not only great for the environment but it also helps to improve the lives of disabled children by providing much-needed specialist equipment. We are delighted to be able to support such a vital charity.”

Pictured: Harry Luxton