A unique Teesside charity’s plans to help local children with autism and their families get closer to nature have won the support of a regional employer.
Daisy Chain has used a £5,570 grant from the County Durham-headquartered Banks Group’s Banks Community Fund to purchase a high tech greenhouse and heat mat that is being used by its students to learn new skills and grow their own produce.
The funding has also covered the cost of making repairs to the charity’s duck pond and putting up fox-proof fencing around the area to both ensure it was safe for the children to use and that the ducks and fish that live there are well protected.
New floodlighting has been installed, and a number of new raised vegetable beds will also be created and planted out by the children and their support workers in spring next year.
Established in 2003 by founder Lesley Hanson, whose son Jacob was diagnosed with autism at an early age, Daisy Chain helps over 500 children and their families every week from across the Tees Valley area at its headquarters on a five acre farm in Norton.
Alongside the animals on the farm, which are used to encourage interaction and stimulation for children affected by autism, facilities include sensory gardens, wetlands and a day centre, which was the first comprehensive support facility to provide holistic support to children with autism and their families in the UK when it opened in 2010.
The services Daisy Chain provides include support and activity groups for the whole family, as well as short breaks for young people and one-to-one advice and guidance sessions for children, young people, parents and carers.
Katy Carmen, fundraising and communications manager at Daisy Chain, says: “Using all aspects of the environment that the farm offers is an essential part of the service we provide, and we know that the children and families with which we work get a huge amount from being out in the open air.
“Our students are already enjoying using the new greenhouse, but it will really come into its own from the spring when we start to plant and harvest our own produce, and we’re looking forward to planting different crops and eventually eating the vegetables that the children will be growing.
“The duck pond is a highly valued part of our facilities, but we needed to ensure it was in the right condition for the children to use, as well as a safe place for the wildlife that uses it to live, and the improvements we’ve been able to make with the Banks Group’s support have covered both these objectives.
Chris Kelsey, communications manager at the Banks Group, adds: “Daisy Chain provides a wonderful range of services for children and families from across the area, and their plans for helping their students learn practical new skills in the greenhouse and garden will add even more to the invaluable work that the charity does.”
The Banks Community Fund provides grants for community groups and voluntary organisations in the vicinity of Banks Group projects. Anyone interested in applying for funding should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.