A mother, who launched Northumberland’s only education centre for children with Down’s Syndrome, is calling on funders to keep the well-used facility running.
Helen Taylor, who lives at Lowgate, set up the learning group which meets at Hexham’s Sure Start Children’s Centre every Thursday and Saturday.
Her four-year-old son, Finlay, was born with Down’s Syndrome.
Children and their parents travel from as far afield as Newcastle and Blyth to use the service.
The centre, which has received funding from the National Lottery Big Lottery Fund and Children in Need in the past, receives nothing in the way of grant funding.
And now, Helen’s husband Wayne is preparing to climb Africa’s tallest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, to raise vital funds to ensure the centre’s survival.
So far, he has raised in excess of £5,000.
She said: “He is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to support the the Education Centre for Children with Down’s Syndrome (ECCDS), which has just two centres here and in Newton Aycliffe.
“My involvement in setting up an ECCDS in Hexham began shortly after the birth of Finlay.
“Finlay attends weekly sessions at the Hexham group, along with other children from across Tynedale, Northumberland, Cumbria, Tyne and Wear and Durham.
“The group is supported by my mother and several other fantastic voluntary workers.”
The education centre at Newton Aycliffe was set up in 2005 as a branch of the Downs Syndrome Educational Trust, by Maggie Hart.
She felt that the work undertaken by the trust would benefit her own son and other children like him in the North-East.
In July 2006, the education centre became an independent charity, to enable access to additional funding sources.
It now runs an early development group for pre-school children and their parents, weekly during term-time.
In September 2006, the group launched a new school age session for four to 11-year-old children.
The group in Hexham also runs a session for four to 11-year-olds on a Saturday.
Sharon Douglas, from Gateshead, has been bringing her eight-month-old son Jonny to the centre in Hexham for a couple of weeks.
She said: “I’ve met other parents who have children with Down’s Syndrome and it gives me the chance to share stories and experiences.
“For Jonny, it’s really helping his development and for the rest of the day he’s really alert and full of himself.” Around one in every 1,000 babies is born with Down’s Syndrome and women of any age or race can have a child with the genetic condition. It is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome and people with Down’s Syndrome need a little extra help to achieve their full potential.
Although people with the syndrome have a degree of learning disability, most will walk and talk and many will read and write, go to ordinary schools and look forward to a semi-independent adult life.
To support Wayne’s charity climb go to www.justgiving.com/climbing-Kilimanjaro-for-ECCDS .