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Fifteen-year-old Saul Catlin will soon be standing tall as his school’s Head Boy, thanks to the donation of a specialist hi-tech wheelchair from Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, working in partnership with retail giant Marks and Spencer.

Saul, from Walthamstow and a pupil at Frederick Bremer School of ‘Educating the East End’ TV fame, has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle wasting condition.

Dad Nick Catlin said: “Saul’s alternative to sitting in his wheelchair is to go to bed; it’s hard for people to understand that sitting down in the same shape all the time can cause a lot of pain. Saul gets cramps in his legs and contractures in his ankles – which can be alleviated by standing up.”

Saul’s new hi-tech powered wheelchair (which he will take delivery of soon) has a sit-to-stand facility which will enable him to get upright easily and independently. Not only will it help ease the pain he already has, but it will significantly reduce the likelihood of him developing scoliosis.

With the wheelchair costing £24,034 – and with a contribution of just £2,000 from local wheelchair services – the family turned to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children for help. Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.

Dad Nick Catlin said: “Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is a severe progressive muscle wasting condition – and children of Saul’s age with the condition have a high risk of developing scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. So it is crucial he has the best support possible – the alternative is a nasty operation to insert metal rods in the spine.

“Being able to stand, using the new hi-tech wheelchair, will give Saul the opportunity to stretch out, full length, several times during the day – an opportunity he doesn’t have at the moment. His support team at Great Ormond Street Hospital said there is a good chance, if he can continue with the stretching exercises, he will avoid scoliosis and the operation.”

Nick added: “The social benefits of this sort of wheelchair are equally important for Saul. It will mean he will be able to look friends, family, anyone in fact, in the eye when he is talking to them. At the moment he is always being looked down on. In adolescence that eye to eye contact is really important – it makes people view you differently.”

The equipment will also help Saul in his new role as a prefect and Head Boy. Saul said: “The new wheelchair is fantastic. I’ve trialled it at home and I’ll be able to stand up and talk to my friends and when I’m in meetings at school. It’s going to help me get around my new college next year where I want to train as a computer programmer and games developer. Best of all I can take my dog Elvis out for walks in the part and the woods without getting stuck in the mud. Big thank you to Newlife and M&S for this opportunity.”

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 £897,682 of equipment for 688 under-19s in Greater London. Right now, the charity is currently working with another 32 families in the capital with equipment needs totalling £13,007.

To find out more about how Newlife supports families in Greater London go to: The website 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 in the capital.

Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of monies donated or fundraised in Greater London will be used to specifically help children with disabilities and terminal illness in the area.

Pictured: Saul Catlin