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Two Tamworth teenagers are getting specialist disability equipment which will help improve their health – thanks to the fabulous fundraising activities of Central England Co-operative colleagues in Staffordshire.

Thirteen-year-old Luke Taylor and 14-year-old Matthew Gilbert – who play wheelchair football together – both have a diagnosis of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which is a progressive muscle-wasting condition.

Each is reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, but needs the opportunity to stand to stretch their muscles and help improve digestion, circulation and respiratory functions. With no statutory funding available for specialist standing frames, their families applied to Staffordshire-based national children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation for help.

Thanks to its current charity partnership with Central England Co-operative (formerly Midlands Co-operative Society), Newlife Foundation was able to respond quickly – and both pieces of equipment are now on order.

Newlife has been Central England Co-operative’s staff elected charity since May 2012, with colleagues and customers raising £397,707 which, to date, has funded 182 items of specialist disability equipment.

Luke’s mum Elizabeth Taylor said: “Sitting in a wheelchair is causing Luke’s spine to become curved, which causes him a lot of back pain. It will mean surgery. So it is very important that he has the opportunity to stand on a daily basis. Not only will it improve his confidence, it crucially means he will be stretching and strengthening his muscles and helping his breathing. And once Luke has had surgery it will be even more important for him to be upright every day. This equipment from Newlife will be used every evening and at weekends; it has a table on the front so Luke can do ‘normal’ things like play on his X-Box while he is using it.”

Elizabeth added: “The standing frame will make a huge difference to Luke’s quality of life so it seems ridiculous to me that it is not available through statutory services. Without charities like Newlife – and the support of organisations such as Central England Co-operative – we would struggle to get the essential equipment Luke needs.”

Luke’s standing frame costs £3,418, while the equipment for Matthew is £5,537.

Elizabeth Taylor’s comments were echoed by Matthew’s mum Rachel Gilbert. She said: “People don’t realise the true cost of specialist disability equipment – and how much of it isn’t provided by statutory services.

“Newlife provided Matthew’s existing standing frame, but his needs have changed and his physiotherapist recommended a change of equipment so he can stand for longer periods of time without being in pain. Like Luke, having the opportunity to stand helps Matthew’s core bodily functions. Being hunched over in a wheelchair for hours on end just isn’t good for their health.”

Matthew’s electric standing frame will enable him to stand independently from a sitting position, so he can control his own postural support programme.

Neil Styring, manager of the Central England Co-operative supermarket in Brent, Tamworth, said: “As a regional retailer we always ensure that our staff-elected charity supports people in need in our trading area. We are delighted to have been able to help Luke and Matthew and their families in this way.”

Pictured: Luke Taylor (left) & Matthew Gilbert

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