Belfast Telegraph

Praxis needs your vote

By Rebecca Petticrew

A local charity which provides respite care for disabled children is hoping to win a share of the 'People's Millions' when the live TV competition airs on UTV later this month.

Praxis Care Children's Play Haven project in Conlig will be pitted against the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children's Space to Breathe Project in Shimna Valley, Newcastle, as they compete to win the most public votes and up to £50k of Lottery Funding.

The funding would allow Praxis to redesign the garden of its Beechfield Residential Unit, which provides respite care for up to 50 children and young people aged between 4 and 18 years old with severe learning disabilities, physical disabilities and/or complex health needs and their families.

Existing garden facilities will be improved and the garden redesigned to transform the space, replacing old equipment and making it safe and fit for purpose. A specific play area with sensory equipment has been designed and plans also include creating a small memorial garden to give staff and children a place to remember those children who have died in recent years.

Centre Manager Linda Lyons said the new space would be "life changing" for the children.

"Our children are very vulnerable, they are very prone to disrespect from some other children and it's purely because the other children don't understand their funny wee ways – why they flap their hands, why they make squealing noises when they run. This would give them an opportunity to play in a safe environment," she explained.

"We've called the project Play Haven and that's really what it would be, a safe environment for our children to get the exercise they need, the stimulation they need, within a safe and controlled environment."

Six Northern Irish projects have been chosen to go head-to-head in the People's Millions – a partnership between Big Lottery Fund and ITV, which has awarded £27.8m to community projects over the last seven years.

Representatives from the groups will put their case for the public's vote to win the funding, with the winners decided by phone vote.

One award will be made each night for three nights – November 25-27 – with a bonus award being announced on November 28 for the runner up who receives the most votes.

Ms Lyons said that while she hopes the project secures the funding, it will go ahead "no matter what".

"It'll take us a lot longer to get there, but we will do it," she added.

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