Three-year-old Leon Hart from Greater Manchester can look forward to more independence and being able to play in the garden with his brother and sisters, thanks to a hi-tech wheelchair donated by Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children and Marks and Spencer.
The equipment – at a cost of £6,280 – takes M&S support of Newlife Foundation, the UK’s largest charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness, to over £600,000.
Leon, from the Wythenshawe area, has Cerebral Palsy and can only use his left arm and hand. He can’t walk or sit unaided and the only way he has been able to get out and about is in a specialist buggy, which means he has always had to rely on someone else to push him round.
His mum, Jodie Torevell, said: “Getting a powered wheelchair will mean independence for Leon and the chance to join in more games with his brother and three sisters and enjoy family days out. He will be able to move around at home whenever he wants to – and when he starts school in September he will be able to take part in more classroom activities with his new friends.”
Leon was given the opportunity to trial a hi-tech wheelchair earlier this year. “From the moment he got in it he worked out how to drive it and was whizzing around. He absolutely loved being in control and screamed when the time came for us to get him out of it,” said Jodie.
She has been told that local statutory services won’t consider the possibility of a powered wheelchair for Leon until he is at least five years old – but that’s another two years away (Leon was three at the end of June).
Jodie said: “He can only move his left arm and just hasn’t got the strength to use a manual wheelchair. A powered model is his only hope of a bit of independence and the opportunity to explore the world around him for himself. He was so happy when he was able to trial the powered wheelchair and now he is getting one of his own it will make a huge difference.”
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 local communities. 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 – the UK’s leading charity funder of specialist equipment for children with disabilities and terminal illness – has helped provide more than £232,000 of equipment for 289 under-19s in Greater Manchester. However, the charity is currently working with another 21 families with equipment needs in excess of £10,000.
In response to the growing need in the area, earlier this year the charity launched its Newlife Greater Manchester Fund. The fund’s website – www.newlifecharity.co.uk/greatermanchester – enables local people to find out who needs help in their area right now and highlights the support the charity gives families. It includes contact details for the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email email@example.com – and shows specific ways people can help support children with disability and terminal illness and their families.
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.”
Pictured: Leon Hart