A blind little boy has been able to enjoy an activity most North East children take for granted; a trip to the beach.

For wheelchair-bound youngsters like eight-year-old Gareth Mentell, from North Shields, the seaside is often out of bounds.

But this week St Oswald’s Hospice gave Gareth and other children, whose families rely on its Children and Young Adults Service, a special day out.

And not only was he able to experience the sounds of the waves on the shoreline and smell the sea air but he also made a four-legged friend – Obama, the pony who took him on his short journey.

Gareth, who also has Down’s syndrome, spends time each month at St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice to give his parents, Jon and Clodagh, some respite and Clodagh said: “This has been such an experience for us all.

“Gareth has got to do something we never thought possible. It has been amazing to see him experience something that other children can do and now we can say he’s been horse riding.

“You could see from Gareth’s reactions and responses today that he had such a good time, by clapping his hands I could tell he was asking for more.”

The Hospice relies entirely on public donations and fundraising events, such as Elmer’s Great North Parade, which launched last month, with 50 big and 114 small Elmer sculptures placed across Newcastle, Sunderland, Gateshead and North and South Tyneside.

And, throughout the 11 weeks of the trail, the hospice hopes to highlight the varied aspects of its work.

“With Elmer’s Great North Parade, we want to help families create special moments and magical memories,” said Jocelyn Thompson, Children and Young Adults Service Manager, at St Oswald’s Hospice.

“And that was also the aim behind taking the children to the beach. Thanks to the specially adapted trailer which can take wheelchairs, Gareth and some of our other children have been able to enjoy what most children take for granted.

“There are other benefits, too – in fact, our nurses believe this could almost have been classed as therapy, the children and their families have enjoyed it so much.”

For more information about Elmer’s Great North Parade and the work of St Oswald’s Hospice, visit www.stoswaldsuk.org.