Rainbow Centre in Fareham celebrates 30 years of supporting children and adults with disabilities

Threatened with closure only last year, the much-loved Rainbow Centre has several events planned to celebrate three decades of its history.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 3:59 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 5:46 pm

The centre, in Palmerston Drive, Fareham, was founded by two sets of parents in 1990, holding its first therapy sessions in the home of Helen Somerset How.

Now the centre provides more than 1,000 therapy sessions every year for children and adults with a range of neurological conditions.

The founder, whose son Tom was diagnosed with cerebral palsy 33 years ago, said it had been an ‘epic adventure’ that started with the fall of the Berlin Wall, allowing ground-breaking therapy work in Budapest to spread across the world.

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Fin Lyons, who attends the Rainbow Centre, cuts a cake celebrating 30 years of the service with its founder, Helen Somerset How.

Helen said: ‘Thirty years ago my husband and I got in our car and began an epic adventure to the Peto Institute in Hungary.

‘We had no idea that epic adventure would lead us here.

‘I’m immensely proud to be here celebrating 30 years of the Rainbow Centre – I never thought that it would have the longevity that it has.’

But last year the centre came close to shutting before its pearl anniversary, with Helen blaming the recession and Brexit for the crisis.

Attendees of the Rainbow Centre celebrate it reaching its pearl anniversary.

She said: ‘Our donations dropped by 30 per cent in last year. We have a firm opinion across the charity sector that the increased uncertainty from Brexit played a part.’

Fighting against the shortfall, the centre smashed its £100,000 fundraising goal, thanks to efforts of people like Veronica Gaoua, who attends the centre’s Parkinson’s therapy group.

The 72-year-old, who raised more than £1,000 by shaving her head, said: ‘It’s more than a service – it’s a community.

‘When I was a special needs teacher, I knew the Rainbow Centre as a small building above an old carpet shop in Fareham.

Veronica Gaoua kept her hair during cancer treatment, but decided to shave it all off to raise some money for the centre.

‘I never thought one day I would be using its services.’

Fin Lyons, who attends the centre to receive support for cerebral palsy, helped celebrate with birthday cake he had baked.

The 10-year-old said: ‘The centre is amazing.

‘They have made my condition a lot less painful and a lot better to cope with.’

Helen Somerset How in front of The Rainbow Centre.

Mum Carly said the centre had become more than just a support service, but ‘a way of life.’

She said: ‘It’s amazing and today is a reminder of how many people must have been helped and benefited from so many people’s hard work.’

More than 1,000 children and 500 adults have been been helped by the centre since it opened.

The Rainbow Centre will host a summer fun day at the centre on Saturday, June 27 and will hold an anniversary celebration ball at the Macdonald Botley Park Hotel & Spa, in Boorley Green, on Saturday, November 28.