CHILDREN'S charity Sparkle has been saved from the brink of disaster, thanks to an emergency government grant and the selfless hard work of scores of donors and fundraisers.

Before the coronavirus crisis, Sparkle provided clubs and leisure activities at the Serennu Children's Centre in Newport for 400 disabled children with complex physical and behavioural needs.

But as the nationwide lockdown began, the Gwent-wide charity was forced to close the centre and cancel months of fundraising activities and events – wiping out its income and putting its future in serious jeopardy.

South Wales Argus:

Lucas Smith, from Rogerstone, with brother Logan and dad Richard at the Serennu Children's Centre in Newport, where Sparkle provides a special cinema for children with additional needs. Picture: Rachel Middleton

At the end of March, the Argus helped launch an emergency fundraising appeal to keep Sparkle's basic services running during the lockdown. Normally, it costs Sparkle £300,000 to run its services for six months.

Tearful parents told the Argus the thought of losing Sparkle was "petrifying" and would leave their children "broken".

Ann Suddaby, whose daughter visits Sparkle, said: "I genuinely don’t know how families of children with disabilities would cope were Sparkle to close."

Joanne Bassett said the impact on her family would be "massive" if the centre was unable to re-open after the coronavirus crisis.

"It's our life, and we're missing it," she said. "My son, Kobe, is scared everyone is going to forget him and he'll lose all his friends.

South Wales Argus:

Kobe Thomas, from Newport, who uses the Sparkle leisure services at the Serennu Children's Centre. Picture: Joanne Bassett

"It would be such a loss to a lot of children."


But amid the despair, more than 150 people have donated to the emergency appeal, so far amassing £77,000 of the charity's £100,000 target.

The appeal has also received some sizeable individual donations from The Waterloo Foundation as well as people who wished to remain anonymous.

And dozens of children who use the children's centre have been determined to play their part in helping Sparkle survive, getting sponsored to walk, run, and climb in support of the charity parents called a "lifeline".

Their contributions have been boosted by a £90,000 grant from the Voluntary Services Emergency Fund, administered by WCVA (Wales Council for Voluntary Action) on behalf of the Welsh Government to support charities during the coronavirus crisis.

"We are delighted, and relieved, that the WCVA has recognised the vital work that Sparkle does to support families of children with disability in Gwent, and have given us this generous grant," Sparkle chairwoman Dr Sabine Maguire said. "We are continuing to provide support to families through the crisis, and look forward to resuming our normal children’s activities once it's safe to do so.”

South Wales Argus:

Sparkle chairman Sabine Maguire.

That will be welcome news to the families who use Sparkle.

Kelly Parsons, whose children Naomi and Efan attend the Serennu centre, said: "We love it there. They're friendly, they make a fuss of the kids, and my daughter has made friends there. They do so much, and not just for children with additional needs."

Another mum, Kelly Jennings, told the Argus: “We would be lost without [Sparkle].

"It is the one place we can spend quality time as a family, where there is support at the end of the phone or as soon as you step over the doorway.”

And Rachel Middleton, whose son Lucas Smith visits Sparkle, said: "Friends from elsewhere can't believe what access we've got – I don't know what we'd do without Sparkle."

South Wales Argus:

Lucas Smith, from Rogerstone, learns to swim with the Sparkle charity at the Serennu Children's Centre in Newport. Picture: Rachel Middleton

If you would like to support Sparkle, visit its online fundraising page at: