Toddler group’s £10k award joy

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A toddler group in Blyth has received £10,000 in funding to help support both disabled and able-bodied children and their families.

Bright Beginnings in Northumberland opened at the Briardale Community Centre in June to help disabled and able-bodied youngsters, aged under five, to interact, play and learn everyday skills, as well as provide help to parents, carers and guardians.

The donation from the Big Lottery Fund has paid for its first year’s rental fee, sensory equipment, furniture and outings.

Run by volunteers, the group was founded by Dawn Hood, whose son Anthony, 23, suffers from what is believed to be severe dystonic cerebral palsy, which has left him wheelchair-bound and having to be fed via a tube through his stomach.

Having struggled to find respite for Anthony, Dawn initially wanted to set up a respite centre for disabled adults aged 18 and over in Northumberland.

However, after approaching Community and Voluntary Action (CVA) in Blyth with her ideas, she was advised to ‘start small’ and Bright Beginnings in Northumberland was born.

Dawn, 48, of Matfen Close, Blyth, said: “I was not prepared to give up and then to receive £10,000 from the Big Lottery Fund was fantastic news.

“It made me feel that they believed in us.

“If they didn’t believe in what we are hoping to achieve, they wouldn’t have awarded us such a huge amount of money to get off our feet.

“I have so many potential plans and I’m hoping to expand in the future.”

The group aim to give families the chance to get together, relax and socialise as well as help prepare youngsters for life ahead.

Dawn also wants to teach able-bodied children more about what it means to have a disability.

Dawn, who runs the group with the help of her friends Yvonne Robson, Jo Russell and Helen Haggerty, said: “We are trying to show that although there can sometimes be a difference visually, disabled children still have a heart and an understanding. Just like any other child.

“We also teach children sign language, which we think is very important.”

Sessions run every Monday, from 10.15am to 12.15pm, and Friday, from 12.30pm to 2.30pm.

Call Dawn on 07989 578223 for more information.