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WE NEED A LOTT; Projects eye pounds 250k funds up for grabs.

Byline: JILLY BEATTIE

TODAY two more projects battle it out for their share of the pounds 250,000 People's Millions lottery windfall.

By voting for your favourite from eight projects you will have the chance to tell the Big Lottery Fund where it should distribute the money.

Four community groups will each receive pounds 50,000 to boost their funds.

But the runner-up with the most overall votes will also win pounds 50,000 in this life-changing competition. In Newcastle, the Autisim Initiatives' Sensory Learning Project would create a garden for disabled people who live full-time in a special unit; meanwhile in Newtownabbey, the Hillcroft PTA Enclosed Ball Area would give children with severe learning difficulties somewhere safe to play.

Kids are having a ball at Hill Croft School

SONYA and Stephen Hall f rom Newtownabbey couldn't wait for their baby to come along - it would be company for their twoyear-old daughter and complete their family.

But when tiny Daryl was born their world fell apart.

Sonya recalled: "All hell broke lose."

The left side of his Daryl's face was scarred with a severe birthmark and just few months old he developed severe seizures as doctors discovered the birthmark was growing into his brain.

Sonya said: ''He ended up having two brain surgeries - one removed the half of his brain causing the seizures and now that they're under control he's an active boy, though he has no language skills."

Daryl's story is just one of 87 triumphs over adversity, each one belonging to a different child at Newtownabbey's Hillcroft school - a special place for children with severe disabilities, where Sonya is chairperson of the Parent Teacher Association.

Having moved to purpose-built premises a few years ago the PTA now wants outdoor facilities for the school to match the rest of its New Mossley campus.

Sonya added: ''Daryl had no quality of life before his operations but how he's an active 12-yearold who loves running about.

"He'd run for ever and ever ? he just wouldn't know when to stop.

"That's why a safe and enclosed ball arena like this one would be such an asset as at present there's just nothing like this for the pupils.

''No matter whether kids have a disability or not, let's face it, they always love being outside and we would make sure this ball arena would be wheelchair accessible too - so every child had that sense of ownership, regardless of their ability.

''Outside play is especially important for these children? it's vital they get a chance to let off steam as it seems to help them settle in class once they go back inside.''

Although this facility would be aimed especially at Hillcroft's older pupils, aged 11 to 19, younger ones too are able to use it as the school accepts children from three years of age.

Sonya said: ''This is particularly important as a growing number of younger children are being enrolled because health professionals can now spot learning disabilities at an earlier stage.

''But if children are receiving earlier intervention then the facilities must be there for them to maximise their potential.

"It's about giving children the best possible quality of life."

TO VOTE FOR ENCLOSED BALL AREA CALL 0871 626 8107

Climbing mountains for a special house

A RESIDENTIAL facility for disabled adults with autism is hoping to create a little piece of paradise where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Mary Murray House in Newcastle is home to 14 people with profound physical disabilities and health problems.

Carmel O'Boyle, a senior care assistant at the facility, said: ''Mary Murray was a local lady who saw the need for something for people with autism who were often living in institutions.

"She probably coined the term 'care in the community' long before it became popular.

"A place like this means our people can have a more normal existence within their own limitations - they are completely dependent on their carers and are mostly wheelchair-bound with limited or no language skills.

"But life at Murray House means they get to enjoy walks on the promenade or time at day centres during the week.

"The weekends and holiday times though are more challenging.

With the day centres closed, while the rest of us enjoy our leisure time, the Mary Murray residents are often confined to the house.

''Our people can't lift a book like us or watch the TV or listen to the radio so the time is very long. However, if they could create a sensory garden area the residents would always be able to access the outdoors and fresh air - right on their doorstep.

"We would also plan to work with two neighbouring schools - Shimna College and All Children's Integrated Primary and help give them too a sense of ownership of this project through helping in its development and getting to know their neighbours here in Mary Murray House."

She added: "People like our residents are often invisible to the rest of the community but we hope that a result of their association with us, these young people or their families will come to understand what disability means - and maybe think about volunteering.

"This project would allow them to see disability is a part of who we all are - to recognise our residents as rightful members of the community.

"We want people to get to know our people and see they are as individual as they area - not judge disability by appearance.

"At the end of the day when I go home, I always feel they've given me so much more than I've given them.

''We hope that with the beautiful backdrop of the Mourne Mountains this sensory garden could be a little piece of paradise.''

TO VOTE FOR SENSORY LEARNING INITIATIVE CALL 0871 626 8108

TERMS AND CONDITIONS Text Relay users should call 18001 before the number they want to vote for. Calls cost 10p from BT landlines. Calls from other networks may be higher and from mobiles may be considerably more. No profits are made by ITV, The Mirror or the Big Lottery Fund from your calls. Lines close at midnight tonight. Calls made after closing time won't be considered but may still be charged. Terms and conditions at itv.com/terms

CAPTION(S):

SPADEWORK Sonya and Hill Croft principal Barbara McAuley ALL SMILES Assistant Carolyn and patient Myrtle Whittaker TEAMWORK The staff and pupils at Hill Croft COMMUNITY Patients and staff at Mary Murray House DELIGHT Wave's Garden of Hope won Tuesday's vote
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 26, 2009
Words:1085
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