The founder of a North East charity which helps bereaved children cope with the loss of a sibling has officially reopened Newcastle Building Society’s newly-upgraded Ponteland branch.

Petra Williams was the guest of honour at the official reopening of the new, open plan branch on Broadway in Darras Hall, which the Society has created as part of an ongoing, multi-million pound investment programme across its entire branch network.

Petra set up Darcey’s Dream in memory of her daughter Darcey, who tragically passed away in 2017 at just nine and a half weeks old, leaving behind her twin sister Layla-Grace and older sister Emelia-Paige.

Darcey’s Dream provides a wide range of support and advice for bereaved families, and won a £3,000 grant from the Society’s Community Fund earlier this year to fund sibling distraction therapy sessions for around 150 children who have lost a brother or sister.

This will enable them to undertake different sorts of ‘normal’ activities, such as music, sensory and soft play, football, swimming and dancing, which provide a welcome break from the difficulties the children and their families are facing at home.

The upgraded branch provides Society customers with better access to services, information and advice, as well as improved meeting spaces to discuss all aspects of personal financial planning.

A free raffle was held as part of the opening event, with customer Sheila Graham winning a food hamper.

The Society has just passed the halfway mark of a programme of upgrading or relocating its entire 30 branch network, with work on refurbishing existing branches or creating new ones due to be complete by the end of the year.

Charlotte Williams, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Ponteland branch, said: “It was great to be able to share our official opening day with so many customers, and to be able to show them the improvements we’ve made to their local branch.

“We’ve had lots of interest as the refurbishment programme has progressed, and the new layout makes much better use of the space that we’ve got.

“We’re very proud to be supporting Darcey’s Dream’s invaluable work and grateful to Petra for taking the time to be our guest of honour.”