A CHARITY supporting hundreds of disabled Gwent children and their families is fighting for survival after coronavirus forced the cancellation of all its fundraising activities.

Sparkle, based at the Serennu Centre in High Cross, Newport, depends on hundreds of thousands of pounds from year-round fundraising events to provide clubs and leisure activities for children who attend it - many of whom cannot otherwise access community-based programmes because their physical or behavioural needs are too great - and their families.

But its income has "plummeted", said Sparkle chairman Dr Sabine Maguire, who fears for its future unless people back its emergency appeal.

She also wants the Welsh Government - which has pledged £1.4 billion to help businesses through the coronavirus shutdown - to provide vital support to charities too.

"Without financial support, our charity will not survive, and the lifeline we offer to families coping with the huge challenges that caring for a disabled child creates, will be lost," warns Dr Maguire.

"Realistically, it has taken us 25 years to reach this stage, and if our charity is forced to close, I cannot see anyone starting it all over again from scratch."

Sparkle began in 2003 as a South Wales Argus-backed appeal to raise millions of pounds for a new centre to provide treatments and therapies for disabled children in Newport and parts of Torfaen and Monmouthshire.

After funding for the centre was secured from the Welsh Government in 2008 - it opened in 2011 - the focus of Sparkle switched to helping fund equipment, and to providing the aforementioned vital support and activities for children who use the centre and their families.

Currently around 400 children and their families benefit regularly from the support provided through Sparkle.

Its unique programme of activities includes swimming, special cinema sessions, climbing, trips to the playground, and outward-bound overnight holidays.

"Parents and young people experience no stigma attending activities with us, where they are warmly welcomed by our highly-skilled staff," said Dr Maguire.

Parents have called Sparkle "a lifeline" where children "always feel welcome".

"We are here to offer support to parents, who may be overwhelmed or feel lost and isolated coping with their child's additional needs, and the strain this puts on the whole family," said Dr Maguire.

This help can include practical help and guidance, access to family liaison officers, workshops on topics from first aid to behaviour management, as well as parent support groups, dads' groups, and sibling clubs.

Providing such support is expensive though - it costs Sparkle £300,000 to run its services for six months.

During the coronavirus outbreak, the charity is continuing to support families across Gwent with dedicated telephone support and online resources, but even this core service will cost an estimated £100,000 to run for the next six months.

"Without your support at this time, Sparkle will not survive, and hundreds of families will be left without the support and social contact they so desperately need," said Dr Maguire.

"Our families do not have anywhere else that they can turn to, to receive this help, so we are asking you to give whatever you can."

You can donate to Sparkle's emergency appeal online at www.justgiving.com/campaign/SparkleAppeal

Alternatively, call 01633 748093 or email fundraising@sparkleappeal.org