Our children inspire us…. Can they inspire you?
Pathways 4 All is local North East charity which was launched in 2010 following an identified need for leisure activities for disabled children and young people.
Lynn McManus, our charity founder, had previously been running a weekly youth club for children with additional needs from within a local soft play area, however this was only available once a week. Families attending were keen to have more frequent access to activities, but this was not possible at the venue they were using. This inspired Lynn to start looking for a more permanent venue and in doing so she started up the charity Pathways 4 All with the primary focus of open a specialist centre for children with additional needs.
Working with North Tyneside Council, Lynn was able to identify a disused council building in the Rising Sun Country Park, however the former hospital wing (built in 1927) was in a very neglected state. There was also a plot of land behind the building which the charity wanted to develop into an enclosed outdoor play area. Upon securing the building, Lynn and the Pathways 4 All Board of Trustees started planning how they would move the project forward and raise the estimated £400,000 needed to bring the building up to a usable standard.
The Pathways 4 All Garden Project
Our first break-through came when the charity won £60,000 in the National Lottery’s Jubilee People’s Millions Award, 2011. This fantastic amount of money enabled us to purchase play and sensory equipment for our garden area. Before this money could be spend on the equipment however, our first job was to clear the very overgrown garden area to the rear of the property. This was no easy task and we are very grateful to the local companies, parents and supporters who came out in all weather conditions to help.
The original garden area consisted of a long and narrow sloping grassed area with an overgrown ‘wilderness’ immediately behind. To the rear of the partition fence was a field which the Duke of Northumberland was kindly allowing us to use so we could extend our garden area further.
Once the garden area was cleared and the ground prepared, the play and sensory equipment arrived and our garden started to take shape. We were especially delighted when our Charity Patron Denise Welch, dropped by along with Kacey Ainsworth to see what had been achieved and spend time playing with our children.
The Building Transformation
With our garden project in progress, our sights turned towards our dilapidated building which was in need of total refurbishment, including new windows, re-wiring, new heating system, roof repairs, sanitation and a new entrance. This was a huge job for a small charity still in it’s infancy, but this did not deter Lynn and the board who were determined to bring this old building back to life and provide much needed facilities for local disabled children.
Our good fortunes continued, when we were chosen by Channel 5 for their TV production Operation Homefront. Bringing in a construction squad made up of ex-service men and women, their mission was to transform our building in just a few days. Working tirelessly alongside a team of volunteer local companies, what seemed like an impossible dream at the start of the week, soon became reality.
Our dream finally became reality in Autumn 2012 when we opened the doors to our much anticipated children’s centre. This was a huge achievement and we were very grateful to all the organisations, companies and individuals who had helped us along the way. One of those key individuals was our Board of Trustees Chair, Tim Lamb who had been invaluable in bringing the right people together, to help advance the charity whilst still in it’s infancy. Tim sadly passed away before the refurbishment of the Centre was completed, so we named it the Tim Lamb Centre in his honour.
The David Marley Extension.
As demand for the Tim Lamb Centre continued to grow, it was evident that more floor space was needed. Following a 3 month refurbishment the Centre re-opened in 2017 with the ‘David Marley Extension’ providing a brand new kitchen and café, adjoining the soft play area. We are very grateful to the Directors of local business firm Kans and Kandy, for generously funding the extension in memory of David Marley, the late father of one of the company directors. The extension was opened by Eunice Marley alongside our Patron Denise Welch.
Room for Improvement
We are always seeking new ways to improve the facilities and services we offer. In 2018 we relocated our sensory room into a much larger space, adding a new heated water bed and a stunning suspended fibre optic ceiling.
Then at the end of 2019 we acquired an additional room (attached to our building, but previously used as the main country park office) and set about to create a purposeful social space for our short break activities programmes. By sectioning off the back of the trampoline hall we were able to create a second additional room and added a small adjacent kitchen area, with cabinets kindly donated by the Benton Branch of Howdens. We were also able to move the computer suite into a larger room and make improvements to our toddler room too.
The Next Chapter…..
For our 2020 improvement plan, we are now concentrating on our outdoor play area, hoping to secure funding to add new sensory play equipment and upgrading the surface area to facilitate better wheelchair and all-weather access.
Watch this space…