A fiercely independent 16-year-old with Cerebral Palsy will receive a special lightweight wheelchair to help give him the freedom he needs to live his life without requiring a carer to accompany him everywhere. The equipment has been donated by Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, working in partnership with retail giant Marks and Spencer.
Kris Jacobs, from Fleetwood in Lancashire, has been using the same wheelchair since primary school – it was perfect for him at age eight, but now means he is very limited in what he can do for himself or where he can go as it’s too painful for him to self-propel the heavy chair.
In order to enjoy the same level of freedom as other teens, Kris needs a special lightweight chair with power assist – but this costs £8,250. With his local statutory services offering just £500 toward the cost, mum Helen turned to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.
Helen said: “The wheelchair he has now is very heavy and designed for a carer to push, but this means Kris has to ask to be taken everywhere he needs to go and wait until someone can take him – even to the toilet. He can’t just decide he wants to go somewhere – and go.
“When he is in the wheelchair and someone wants to get past when we are out, people just move the chair, they don’t even ask him. He needs a wheelchair that he can be in charge of. His lack of independence makes him very frustrated and he really struggles to deal with it.
“He’s a very thoughtful lad. He would like to go more places, do more things, try sports, learn to drive – all of which he could do with the right chair, but without it. . . he’s stuck.
“He attends a special school and goes out with a youth group for the disabled, but even when he goes out with them he can’t always take part in the activities they do because of the chair he currently has. It’s against health and safety for a carer to push the chair up hills – and what teenager wants their mum with them all the time?”
All of Kris’ muscles are affected by Cerebral Palsy; his muscles are stiff and rigid, but his legs are most severely affected. He struggles with fine movement but is able to transfer his body weight with his arms. A lightweight wheelchair with a power add-on means he would be able to easily manoeuvre himself around home as well as go out – all without a carer.
Helen adds: “He wants to move on with his life, switch to mainstream education. But this is only possible with the right equipment. The life he lives will be dictated by his chair. Kris is fiercely independent and the right equipment will give him freedom and options.
“Kris is so excited the wheelchair is not just a dream. He says he is tired of being pushed around! And yes he is literally being pushed around but he feels useless, he is so happy that where he goes he will have physical control of with his new chair.”
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.”
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 the local community and across the UK. 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 has helped provide £487,237 of equipment for 411 under-19s in Lancashire. Right now, the charity is currently working with another 20 families in the county with equipment needs totalling £8,318.
To find out more about how Newlife supports families in Lancashire go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/lancashire. The website includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email firstname.lastname@example.org – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families in the county.
Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of monies donated or fundraised in Lancashire will be used to specifically help children with disabilities and terminal illness in the county.
Pictured: Kris Jacobs