ACROBATIC youngsters at a North-East gymnastics club have performed more than 3,000 cartwheels to raise money for a pioneering charity that supports autistic people.

Charity supporters were encouraged to do the sponsored ‘7k for 700k’, and run, cycle, walk, or swim 7km, in solidarity with the 700,000 autistic people who live in the UK, during Autism Acceptance Week.

Thornaby & Barwick Gymnastics Club decided to put a twist on the idea, and twenty of the club’s young tumblers travelled the 7km distance by doing cartwheels – a total of 3,472 flips.

The budding gymnasts, aged between four and thirteen, raised £750, which they have donated towards the work of the North East Autism Society (NEAS).

Kirsty McDougall, the club’s coach, said: “I do a lot of work in schools with children with special needs, and one of our gymnasts has a brother who is autistic, so we thought it would be great to support NEAS.”

Each gymnast performed around 200 cartwheels, with the older members helping younger ones who struggled to reach the challenging target.

Kirsty said: “We never expected to raise that much for the North East Autism Society, but we’re thrilled. We’re a small club, so I was very pleased we had such a brilliant result.

“The gymnasts were a bit hesitant at first because it was such a big number of cartwheels, but the more they did, the more they got into it – they started to get quite competitive by the end!

“Everyone was a bit dizzy and sore after that many cartwheels, but they were rightly very proud of what they’d done, and I’m very proud of them all.”

NEAS community fundraiser, Sophie Clarke said: “We love it when young supporters come up with such clever ways to get involved. The girls have done a brilliant job, and we’re very grateful to them, and to everyone who sponsored them.”

Anyone interesting in supporting the North East Autism Society or becoming involved with community fundraising is asked to contact Sophie Clarke on 0191 410 9974, or to email fundraising@ne-as.org.uk.