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Party time for caring charity
5:27pm Friday 29th June 2012 in News
A CHARITY has celebrated 25 years of providing a playgroup and support service for children with special needs and their families.
Koalas Swindon Opportunity Group welcomed families past and present to its silver jubilee open day yesterday.
It marked a number of milestones which include the service moving to its spacious building at the Salt Way Centre, Middle-leaze.
Koalas had been based at the old Victoria Hospital in Okus Road but now has its own pre-school with its own garden and an area for parents.
Manager Stephanie Hathaway said: “We have come a long way since we were based at the hospital.
“We had to clear everything away at the end of the day whereas now we can leave it.
“It has made a huge difference having our own space.
“We have a one-stop shop for families with the pre-school in one part of the building and physiotherapists and speech and language therapists in another.
“Parents can make one appointment to use both facilities, which is great."
The staff have met Princess Diana, Swindon Town footballers and the Queen over the years and they have remained devoted, not just to the children, but to their families.
Mrs Hathaway said: “For some families this has been a lifeline by providing them with the support they need at a really difficult time.
“We work with children up to five years old and help them and their families come to terms with their diagnosis just by just being there.
“You go into the parent room and some days there will be laughter and others there will be tears.
“It just facilitates parents and makes them feel comfortable to let out their emotions.”
The charity, based in a building owned by Swindon Council, also provides opportunities for children to bring their siblings to play sessions.
Founder Sarah Purnell, whose daughter Caroline has severe learning difficulties and epilepsy, was among the parents looking at a photographic display and a wall where families recorded comments.
Mrs Purnell, 54, from Moredon, said: “To be here today is amazing. Kolas has been the best thing ever for families and their children and is doing exactly what we set it up to do.”
“ This is a real success story.”