Families, friends, fundraisers and VIPs came together to launch the new Hop, Skip & Jump Centre at Upper Shaw Farm Centre in West Swindon on 15 July.
The centre will quickly become a lifeline to many families with children with severe disabilities and life limiting conditions, offering respite care, and essential support for parents coping with care responsibilities, as well activities for able bodied siblings involved in caring.
Before cutting the ribbon to open the former community centre, Robert Buckland MP, pictured second down with Ben and Emily Morris, said he had visited the Hop Skip & Jump Centre near Cheltenham and immediately took the idea to Swindon Council as an important initiative to pursue. “The transformation of the building is remarkable; it’s wonderful to know families can now start using it.”
The council has made a site available in Lydiard Park for a purpose built centre, but the recession made raising the £1 million cost impossible.
Earlier this year it offered the charity the disused community centre at Ridge Green. The probation service started by clearing the grounds and undertaking indoor demolition before volunteers from Zurich, Burmah and Thames Water pulled out the paint brushes.
The Rotary Club Swindon Old Town contributed £5,000 to the project. Member David Pratt said, “a couple of months ago, the farm was empty and disused, I am amazed with the conversion.”
Westlea School pupil Ben Morris, who is confined to a wheelchair by spinal muscular atrophy, said he enjoyed trying out the new play equipment and whizzing about the large hall in his powered wheelchair. His dad Doug is delighted with the finished job. “It’s fantastic. Ben can be involved in supported play in a safe environment close to home, and we can get much-needed respite. Travelling to Bristol or Cheltenham was hard; having a centre in Swindon is wonderful for parents whose children have major needs.”