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Newark youngster becomes the face of Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children’s Christmas appeal for the gift of play

A Newark girl with a unique genetic condition has become the face of a charity’s Christmas appeal.

Newlife the Charity for Disabled Children, is urging people to donate to their Christmas appeal so they can help more children with disabilities and terminal illness receive sensory toys and discover the joy of play.

Two-year-old Amelia Pepper is the only recorded person with her genetic sequence and has benefited from the Play Therapy Pod service offered by Newlife, which has helped with her development and enabled her to bond with her family.

Amelia, the star of Newlife Charity's Christmas Campaign to raise funds so more children can have the gift of play.
Amelia, the star of Newlife Charity's Christmas Campaign to raise funds so more children can have the gift of play.

Now Amelia is the star of the Christmas campaign to help raise funds for the service so more children can enjoy the gift of play. Full details about the appeal and making a donation can be found at https://newlifecharity.co.uk/christmas/.

Described by her mum, Sian Lawrence as a true miracle, Amelia’s unique genetic sequence means she faces an uncertain future.

As a result of her condition, she needs to be tube-fed as she’s at high risk of breathing in fluid into her lungs, is partially sighted and has decreased muscle tone, so she can’t sit up on her own, walk or crawl.

But her head control is developing and despite doctors believing she would never speak, she now says a few words, including mum, dad and hello.

Sian and Amelia.
Sian and Amelia.

Sian said: “Her favourite time is when she’s in her sensory room, which was fundraised through family and friends, and she loves being in there. The sensory toys on loan from Newlife are great additions to the room and really help her development — it’s lovely to see her interact, play and learn. The toys always arrive quickly and it’s a lovely surprise to see what’s in the box — there are so many kinds of pods and toys to explore.”

The service provides sensory toys on loan for 12 weeks, with a variety of pods available to suit different ages and developmental needs, which the charity explained can make a huge difference to the lives of children struggling to use standard high street toys due to physical and learning difficulties, cancer, neurological conditions, autism and other conditions.

The right toys can improve development and motor function, help families bond and distract from pain, and the loans help families try before they decide to buy similar expensive sensory toys.

Amelia’s family have received four of Newlife’s pods so far, to learn exactly what helps her.

Her favourite toy so far is an elephant with switch buttons attached which she can tap with her fingers and toes to make it sing songs and wiggle its ears and she also enjoys colourful toys with music and lights, which have helped her be able to track things with her fingers as well as her sight and develop her hand and eye co-ordination and head control.

Sian added: “There are so many toys we just wouldn’t have known about without the loans from Newlife. They help us discover what really appeals to Amelia, which can sometimes be a real surprise, and there have been several which have made it on to her Christmas and birthday lists as we know she gets a lot out of them, which with the current cost of living is better than buying things we don’t know for sure she will enjoy.

“Newlife’s sensory toys are also a great distraction when she’s in pain or we are waiting for appointments, especially little toys which encourage her to use her hands.”

With a new baby brother for Amelia on the way, the sensory toys mean Sian and dad, Callum, can look forward to seeing their children play together, helping them to interact and build their own bond.

“I imagine the pod being opened and Amelia showing her brother the sensory toys inside,” added Sian.

“It will be lovely to watch them both, she can share her toys with him and when he’s older he can show her different ways to play and interact with him, we can’t wait.”

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