Teenager Alice Gresswell has been restricted to the ground floor of her Sleaford home for the past seven months – but that will soon be a thing of the past, thanks to the donation of a specialist climbing wheelchair from Newlife, the Charity for Disabled Children, working in partnership with Marks and Spencer.
Alice, aged 17, has a diagnosis of osteopetrosis, a rare disorder characterised by extra bone growth and overly dense bones. This has affected Alice’s skull, and has already impacted on her optic nerves causing her to lose her sight. Mum Beverley Gresswell said: “Alice has gradually lost her sight over the last three years and now there are concerns that her hearing will be affected too.”
Alice says that the stair climbing wheelchair – due for delivery at the end of January – will make a huge difference and ‘means the world’ to her. “It will enable me to begin to get my life back to being as normal as possible. I will be so happy and grateful to be able to go up to my bedroom like any other 17-year-old.”
Alice presently has difficulties walking so uses a wheelchair to get around. With no way to get her upstairs in her wheelchair, both she and mum Beverley have been sleeping on the ground floor – and Alice hasn’t been able to have a bath or shower at home since June 2016.
Beverley said: “Nobody locally has been able to help us. A stair lift wouldn’t be any good because I would still have to get Alice’s wheelchair up and down too. Her occupational therapist researched stair climbing wheelchairs, and Alice has been able to trial one. It’s just what she needs, but there is no local funding available.”
The equipment costs £4,550, so Beverley turned to Newlife for help. Newlife is the UK’s largest charity provider of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.
A partnership between Newlife and Marks & Spencer is now providing the equipment.
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 240 pieces of essential equipment, totalling in excess of £815,000 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 charity, 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 £140,195 of equipment for 126 under-19s in Lincolnshire. Right now, the charity is currently working with another three families in the county with equipment needs totalling £4,724.
To find out more about how Newlife supports families in Lincolnshire go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/lincolnshire. The website includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email [email protected] – 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 Lincolnshire will be used to specifically help children with disabilities and terminal illness in the county.
Pictured: Alice Gresswell