ACTRESS and model Liz Hurley brought a touch of glamour to the grand opening of the first-of-its-kind respite centre in the town centre yesterday.
The 49-year-old, who starred in films including Austin Powers and Bedazzled, also found fame through relationships with Hugh Grant and Shane Warne.
But she has also been a stalwart campaigner for Swindon charity Hop, Skip and Jump as their patron.
Yesterday the charity built upon its 13-year operation in the town by opening a dedicated centre for children with disabilities in the heart of the Brunel Centre.
“This is the first Care in the High Street store anywhere in the world,” Liz said, who lives near Cirencester.
“We are hoping that one day we can have this sort of centre up and down the United Kingdom, to help children with disabilities and their families to have a bit of respite.
“It is just a wonderful place for people and I would encourage everybody to help raise funds for such a noble cause. It is wonderful to be part of a large but local organisation. Often people focus on global issues, but something like this in people’s own areas really needs supporting and always needs funding.
“I have lots of friends who have children with disabilities, from autism to cerebral palsy, and often these things can go undiagnosed. I know all of those parents would use charities such as this one if there was a Hop Skip and Jump in all areas. It is an essential part of our whole lives and one we should all support.”
Sonia Osbourn, centre manager, said it had been a whirlwind journey to opening day. “We were launched in Downing Street in June and that is how quickly this has all happened,” she said. “We will be giving alternative education for children who find it difficult at school. We are also opening up for adults, because we find a lot of people with dementia in the family find it difficult to come into town, but they can come here and relax while their partner shops.
“We will see how this one goes and there is hope we may be able to open up in Bristol or Cardiff.”
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “Liz is an absolute trooper. I remember when she came to speak at the House of Commons about this and she was very articulate. She takes a keen interest in the work of the charity, and brings a touch of glamour, which is essential for a smaller charity.”
Clarissa Mitchell, founder of Hop, Skip and Jump, said: “I started the charity in 1981 because I met a lady who had not had a day off in 44 years because she had a daughter who was tetra-plegic. To our shame this still occurs.”