The parents of two Sheffield girls who are both being provided with specialist disability equipment are urging fabulous fundraisers in the city to get behind an appeal to help provide similar support for two other local families.
Eight-year-old Faith Lewis and nine-year-old Freya Coulter are both set to get specialist buggies, to help their families get them out and about. The equipment is being provided by leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation – which is currently working with a further two families in Sheffield who also need specialist buggies for their disabled children.
Newlife Foundation CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “Wheelchairs can often be very heavy and difficult to manoeuvre so a specialist lightweight buggy is a much easier way to get older children out into the community.”
Born prematurely, Faith – from Burngreave in Sheffield – has a complex condition of hydrocephalus, epilepsy and chronic lung disease together with learning difficulties and autism. She has three ‘shunts’ inserted to drain excess fluid from her brain.
Her mum, Monica Ferguson, said: “Faith has had a lot of problems with her shunts, and she becomes really poorly. Normally she can walk short distances but when she is ill she needs additional help. Unfortunately her wheelchair is quite heavy and won’t go into a normal taxi; sometimes we can’t even get it on the bus.”
Monica is unable to drive so either walks everywhere or relies on public transport. With the wheelchair being unwieldy, the new buggy – which costs £1,056 – will mean she can take Faith out and about more easily, including to regular medical appointments. Faith will be also able to ‘access all areas’ when she is on school trips.
Freya Coulter, from Grenoside, has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy following lack of oxygen during a difficult delivery. She is unable to sit or stand independently and is a full-time wheelchair user. However, her wheelchair is only suitable for use on even surfaces – so a lightweight buggy (hers costs £1,039) will mean more opportunities for Freya and her four-year-old brother to explore the great outdoors together.
Mum Jenny Coulter said: “Freya has a heavy manual wheelchair which weighs as much as she does, and she can’t propel it herself. It is only good to use on smooth pavements, so – for instance – getting Freya and her brother out into the local woods is really hard work.”
She added: “And while I have a specially adapted vehicle, Freya’s grandma can’t get the wheelchair into her car so she is limited to where she is able to take her when they spend the day together. Having the buggy will mean grandma can take her so many more places. The buggy will also provide an alternative seat to keep Freya safe when she is in the house; at the moment she only has the wheelchair, which sits her bolt upright and isn’t terribly comfortable over any length of time.”
Newlife has funded 175 Equipment Grants for children in South Yorkshire, totalling £195,396; this includes wheelchairs, specialist beds and car seats, portable hoists and seating systems, walking and standing frames, buggies and communication aids.
Newlife’s Sheila Brown said: “As cutbacks continue to bite into local authority budgets we can expect to see applications for Newlife equipment services continue to rise – and we currently have another two families in Sheffield who need specialist buggies for their disabled children. As a charity we are looking increasingly to ‘local heroes’ to help us help children in individual counties – and Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of all monies donated or fundraised in South Yorkshire can be ring-fenced to specifically provide equipment for disabled and terminally ill children in the county.”
If you would like to raise money to help fund the two outstanding specialist buggies – at a combined cost of £2,503 – the Newlife Community Fundraising Team can be contacted on freephone 0800 988 4640. Any individual or organisation thinking of running a fundraising event is asked to contact the team, who can offer support and guidance.
Any monies collected surplus to requirements for these two Sheffield children will be used to provide specialist equipment for another disabled or terminally ill child in South Yorkshire. In total, Newlife is currently working with five families in the area, with equipment needs totalling £6,099.
Pictured: Freya Coulter.