A much-loved North East children’s charity is planning to use to power of story-telling to help improve the lives of youngsters visiting the Great North Children’s Hospital thanks to a four-figure grant from the Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund.

The Children’s Foundation is set to test the benefits of having a special ‘Story Chair’ to help relieve anxiety for children visiting the hospital’s busy Outpatients Department.

The chair is over a metre wide and has been custom-built from solid oak to a special design that the charity is keeping under wraps until its grand unveiling before Christmas.

To cover the cost of the project, The Children’s Foundation has been awarded a £3,000 grant via the Newcastle Building Society’s flagship Northumberland Street branch in Newcastle.

The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation, which has been set up to provide grants to charities and community groups located in or around the communities served by the Society’s branch network, and put forward for support by its customers.

The chair comes along with a matching wooden box full of books that are suitable for different ages and the grant also includes provision for replenishing and keeping the supply of books up-to-date.

Based in Newcastle, The Children’s Foundation was established in 1990 in response to a Government Report which showed the North East region had the worst child health levels in the country.

Its first campaign, The Yellow Brick Road Appeal, raised more than £11M to build The Sir James Spence Institute of Child Health in Newcastle, and it continues to work to improve the health and well-being of children and young people in the North East through a wide range of activities.

Based at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, the charity receives no statutory funding for its work and identifies gaps in provision impacting on the health of children and young people, with a particular focus on the development of emotional resilience and mental well-being.

Dr Sue Vernon, acting CEO of The Children’s Foundation, says: “Visiting hospital can cause children great anxiety – the environment and medical procedures are often unfamiliar and this can add to feelings of helplessness.

“The Story Chair will be a special place where youngsters can be captivated and comforted during what can be a daunting time. It’s somewhere they can bond with the parent or carer who is supporting them during their visit to hospital and is created from a beautiful natural oak to enhance the feeling of escapism.

“We know how important reading is in terms of language acquisition and developing literacy skills. Stories also help children make sense of the world, they can be full of magic and wonder and encourage communication. All of that is particularly important for children within a situation, like a visit to hospital, where they feel uncertain.

“This is a pilot project for us and the benefits of placing a Story Chair in a children’s hospital will be evaluated and reviewed. If it works as well as we believe it will, we hope to expand the project into other environments and are very grateful to the Society for their generous support in helping us make it happen.”

Since its launch in 2016, Newcastle Building Society’s Community Fund has contributed over £494,707 in grants and partnerships with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Princes Trust. The grants are so far estimated to have had a positive impact on more than 151,000 people.

The most recent application period saw 40 projects that had been nominated by Society customers, receiving a total of £94,982 between them.

Grant applications for a maximum of £3,000 can be made in any Society branch or via the newcastle.co.uk website by customers who wish to support their local communities.  There are larger grants of up to £50,000 also available to assist groups in improving or maintaining community buildings.

Pauline Baldwin, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Northumberland Street branch, adds: “The Children’s Foundation has been making a massive positive difference for children and young people in our region for many years now, and we are very proud to support organisations like this that share our commitment to benefiting local communities

“We look forward to seeing reactions to the Story Chair when it is revealed to the public and feel sure it will provide great comfort for children when they visit the hospital.”

The Newcastle Building Society Community Fund is run in association with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.