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SOLDIERS’ 12-HOUR CHALLENGE HELPS JAMES GET HIS WHEELCHAIR

Army physical training instructor Ben Martin and his colleagues at the Prince Phillip barracks at Bordon in Hampshire have raised £2,500 to support the children’s disability charity that is helping his niece.

This money will help Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children fund a compact powered wheelchair for six-year-old Hampshire boy James Miles, who lives in Lee-on-the-Solent.

The 23-year-old Lance Corporal organised a 12-hour fitness challenge, which involved nine teams of four tackling a continuous relay consisting of two minutes of sit-ups and two minutes of press-ups followed by a mile-and-a-half run.

Ben said: “When people found out what they would be helping to raise money for they were really keen to help. The Sergeant Major’s offer of one month without guard duty for the team which raised the most money was an added incentive.”

Ben’s three-year-old niece has Cerebral Palsy and urgently needed specialist comfortable seating for use at home. He had originally intended to organise the fundraiser to directly help his niece, but leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation stepped in to help her.

Ben said: “I wanted to say ‘thank you’ to Newlife and decided to go ahead with the fundraiser to support another disabled child.”

He added: “Members of the competing teams range in age from 18 to their mid-40s and they have been doing all sorts of additional things like bag-packs at the local supermarket to boost the amount raised.”

Like Ben’s niece, six-year-old James also has Cerebral Palsy; he cannot walk or crawl and uses a wheelchair for all his mobility needs. Statutory services has provided him with a heavy and bulky powered wheelchair, however this is not suitable for use at home and will not fit in the family car. This means that James has to use a manual wheelchair in the house and for days out and holidays with the family.

James’s mum Kathryn Hickman said: “James has very limited use of his arms and can’t propel the manual wheelchair himself – so he has to rely on other people to move anywhere. Having the new compact powered wheelchair will mean he can get around the house by himself – and it will mean independence for him when we go to the local country park, visit friends and relatives and go on holiday. James is a typical six-year-old and wants to be able to do everything for himself; this will help him enormously.”

She added: “We are extremely grateful to Newlife for helping to provide the powered wheelchair for James and would like to say a special thank you to Ben Martin and his colleagues for raising £2,500 towards the cost of the equipment. When we told James what Ben and his colleagues had done James replied, with a huge beaming smile on his face, ‘Thank you’.

The new powered wheelchair costs £6,523; the family has raised £2,500 towards it but turned to Newlife Foundation for help with funding. In addition to Ben Martin’s donation to the charity of £2,500, Newlife has funded the £1,523 shortfall.

Newlife has provided more than £11million of specialist equipment for disabled and terminally ill children across the UK since 2005. This includes 257 Equipment Grants totalling £462,387 in Hampshire.

Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “With statutory services across the UK implementing continued budget cuts, we expect to see more and more families turn to Newlife Foundation for help. That’s why we’re appealing for ‘local heroes’ like Ben and his colleagues to come forward and donate or fundraise to help a disabled or terminally ill child in their county.

“Every penny that people donate goes directly to funding vital equipment. This could be a wheelchair or buggy for mobility, a specialist bed or car seat to keep a child safe or a communication aid so they can tell their parents when they are hungry or in pain.”

If would like to help other disabled and terminally ill children in Hampshire, call the Newlife Community Fundraising Team on freephone 0800 988 4640 or email [email protected].

To find out more about the range of equipment grant and loan support services offered by the charity, call the Newlife Nurse Helpline on freephone 0800 902 0095 or email [email protected].

Pictured: James Miles.

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