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Last Updated: Friday, 11 May 2007, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Centre is named after Toon legend
Alan Shearer - (Getty Images)
The balloons carried the wishes of families planning to use the centre
A new centre for disabled people named after Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer has been officially opened.

The former England striker marked the occasion by releasing 1,000 balloons, outside the building, situated on the outskirts of Newcastle, on Friday.

The respite centre, which boasts a hydrotherapy pool, cinema and internet cafe, has been funded using 320,000 from Shearer's testimonial match fund.

Fourteen good causes benefited from the 1.64m raised at the match last year.

'Breathtaking generosity'

The 36-year-old said he was proud to have helped charity St Cuthberts Care kit out the building.

He said: "It is very humbling to see at first hand families who cope with the needs of a disabled child or parent.

"I've been told that up until now they haven't had anywhere to go to relax together.

"They can often feel 'different' or embarrassed at places most people take for granted such as restaurants or the cinema.

"I'm certain that the centre will change all of that as it will give everyone choice and the chance to have fun as a family in fantastic surroundings."

En-suite accommodation for up to eight children or adults is provided at the centre along with 24-hour supervision and care.

Austin Donohoe, chief executive of St Cuthberts Care, said families from as far afield as Cumbria and North Yorkshire had made bookings.

He said: "This would all be a pipe-dream, a set of plans on my desk, had it not been for Alan's breathtaking generosity."


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