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WHEELCHAIR BOOST GIVES THEO INDEPENDENCE

Twelve-year-old Theo Spence will soon be able to get out and about in comfort thanks to the donation of a lightweight wheelchair from Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, working in partnership with retail giant Marks and Spencer.

Theo, from Duston in Northampton, has Beals Syndrome, a condition that affects his joints and restricts movement. He can walk around the family home, but needs a wheelchair to get about outside.

Because he has some limited mobility local statutory services won’t provide this support, so his current wheelchair – which he had when he was five years old – was privately funded. As Theo is approaching his teenage years, it is unsurprising that he has outgrown this and needs a new, lightweight model.

Mum Rachael Spence said: “Theo has been squeezing into his old wheelchair over the school summer holidays – he hasn’t had a choice because the alternative was to not go out at all.” Rachael is delighted Theo will now be getting the larger piece of equipment he needs. She said: “The new wheelchair will be lighter than the existing one, which means Theo will be able to propel it himself more. He will soon be a teenager and wants to be more independent and this new wheelchair will support that.”

Theo periodically needs to have his legs set in casts – for around eight weeks at a time – and is therefore unable to walk at all. He is currently waiting for this procedure, when a wheelchair will be vital to his mobility needs.

With the equipment costing £3,150, the family turned for help to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children. 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 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 provided £232,784 of equipment for 203 under-19s in Northamptonshire. Right now, the charity is currently working with another 11 families in the county with equipment needs totalling £8,455. To find out more, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/northamptonshire

Pictured: Theo Spence

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