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WHEELCHAIR FOR ‘LAUGHTER AND JOY’

A Sheffield family are looking forward to the ‘laughter and joy’ that a hi-tech wheelchair is set to bring to five-year-old Zoe Robinson. The equipment is being donated by Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, working in partnership with retail giant Marks and Spencer.

Zoe, from the Crookes area of the city, has Cerebral Palsy. She currently uses a manual wheelchair, but because she can’t propel this herself she always has to have an adult present to help her move around – whether it is at home or at school with her friends in the playground.

Mum Sarah Kettlewell said: “Zoe is now at school and she wants to be like all the other children; she wants to be able to keep up with the friends she is making. But the social dynamics change completely when there is always a teacher or parent around to push the wheelchair. It has been a massive concern to me that she will be able to integrate academically and socially into the school because life can be very isolating for children like Zoe. A powered wheelchair will make a huge difference.”

Sarah added: “When she trialled the equipment the look of joy on Zoe’s face was wonderful to see. The fact that mummy was on the other side of the room and she was able to move where she wanted to go was a real boost for her. I began to realise how much potential a hi-tech wheelchair could unlock in Zoe.”

With no funding available through statutory services for the £6,218 wheelchair, the family turned to Newlife Foundation, the UK’s largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness.

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 helped provide more than £279,000 of equipment for 310 under-19s in South Yorkshire. However, the charity is currently working with another 15 families with equipment needs.

To find out more about how Newlife supports families in the county, go to: www.newlifecharity.co.uk/southyorkshire. 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 South Yorkshire.

Pictured: Zoe Robinson

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