DISABLED children and their families are a step closer to having their own respite centre in Waterlooville.
The charity Smile Support and Care has raised an incredible £2.1m towards the £4m needed to build a modern state-of-the-art complex next to Rachel Madocks School, in Eagle Avenue, Cowplain.
The centre will provide support and short breaks to severely disabled children and young people and their families across Hampshire and West Sussex.
The official launch for funding for the appeal coincided with the charity’s 18th anniversary.
They were both celebrated on HMS Warrior last week and attended by Smile’s patrons and donors.
Chief executive Stuart Baldwin said: ‘On behalf of everyone at the charity, I’d like to thank those who have pledged their support and helped our fundraising efforts get off to a great start.
‘Raising £2.1m is a considerable amount, but we aren’t there yet. To achieve our goal of building the proposed centre we still have a substantial total to raise and are keen to encourage as many individuals, schools, organisations and local businesses to back our appeal.’
The charity has identified 156 special schools in Hampshire, West Sussex, Dorset and the borders of Berkshire, Wiltshire and Surrey whose pupils will be able to use the centre, which will be self-funding once it’s up and running.
The 80 pupils at Rachel Madocks School will be able to use the centre.
There will be eight en suite bedrooms, as well as two family apartments, a large dining room, recreational, sensory and games rooms, a physiotherapy and treatment space, and specially planted gardens to encourage sensory stimulation.
Full planning permission has been granted by Havant Borough Council.
Theresa Elliott, appeals director for the charity, said: ‘The launch went very well.
‘It was attended by quite a number of our vice patrons and the mayors of Eastleigh and Portsmouth and it was really good of them to be there.
‘We have managed to raise £1.4m towards the building through the trusts, grants and generous donations.
‘We don’t want to start building at all until we’ve raised every penny that we need to but we are really hoping that will be by the end of this year.
‘We are about to start our community fundraising appeal and we now have a corporate fundraiser who will raise donations through businesses.’
Among the businesses supporting Smile is Basepoint, based in Havant and Waterlooville.
To donate call (023) 8061 6215 or go to smilesupport.org.uk.