THEIR previous minibus was torched to the ground, leaving children absolutely devastated.
But now the youngsters at Marvels and Meltdowns in Gosport have been given a new minibus, thanks to donations from members of the public.
The charity works with young people affected by ADHD, Autism Spectrum Conditions and Sensory Processing Disorder.
In September, the group’s minibus was burnt out by arsonists, leaving the charity heartbroken.
But the community rallied together to get the charity back on its feet, and has now presented a new bus which will be used by the children and in the community.
Co-founder of Marvels and Meltdowns Tricia Lyons said: ‘We invited everybody who donated money to come along and celebrate the reveal of the bus with us.
‘The community has been absolutely amazing – we have had people coming in and giving us quite sizable amounts of money, and it’s beautiful to see.
‘The generosity of local people has been wonderful.’
Gosport’s champion fundraiser Les Heyhoe and Norman Wisdom impersonator Glenn Ford, as well as the borough’s mayor Cllr Linda Batty, were there for the day.
Shandrika Day, the other co-founder of the charity, said: ‘From the bottom of our hearts we have to say a massive thank you to Rob and Sarah McDowell who donated the minibus to us and truly none of this would have been possible without them.
The minibus will be transformed into a sensory area for the children with Gosport Men’s shed helping to install the sensory equipment.
Tricia said: ‘Kitting out the bus is extremely expensive, so we decided to do it in two stages.
‘We wanted people to see just what their money has gone towards.
‘It will have lights, sounds and all sorts of sensory items in there.
‘At the moment there isn’t a sensory bus of this kind in the south of England – there are sensory rooms all over the place but no buses.
‘We were going to put the sensory room in our family centre but it made much more sense to have a bus.’
Tricia says that the bus will play an important role in the day-to-day activity of the centre.
She said: ‘Having a sensory bus like this will give an autistic child a break from the usual sensory overload.
‘When entering the bus they will be in a tranquil environment and be much calmer as a result.
‘It is an hour away from their busy minds and that is so important – we will have a mobile space available whenever they need it.’
The plan is to have the bus ready by the summer.
Tricia added: ‘We are hoping to take it along to the HMS Sultan Summer Show.
‘The children are going to absolutely love it and we can’t wait for the minibus to be finished.’