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Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 15:30 UK
Pudsey hops to help play scheme
Jon Wright, BBC Suffolk
By Jon Wright
BBC Suffolk

Giant Connect 4 at HOPS
One to one play - HOPS is always looking for volunteer helpers

An activity centre for children with disabilities is benefitting from three years' funding from Children in Need.

The Mid-Suffolk Holiday Opportunity Play Scheme (HOPS) needs around £50,000 per year to keep it going.

In July 2009 they had a Children in Need grant of £50,000 to be spread over three years.

"That money will part-pay some of the salaries which gives us some stability," said Jackie Markell, who co-ordinates HOPS.

A snapshot of life at HOPS shows us painting, drumming, stroking snakes and generally enjoying playing outside.

HOPS was established in 1978 and children, young volunteers and play leaders seem to have a great time at their centre in Thorndon near Eye.

They also have a sensory room which features bubble tubes and activities based on sound and light which can be altered to cater for an individual child's needs.

"Having somewhere for the children to go during the summer is a life saver," said Jackie.

Jackie and Dan at HOPS
Jackie says children such as Dan benefit from the Saturday Club

She got involved 12 years ago after her son was diagnosed as being autistic.

"To know they have some regular activity where they are cared for by people who understand them and their needs - it's really important as a family.

"You can then do other things with the siblings and know that your child is having a fantastic time."

Close to closure

But, like a lot of charities, it's a constant struggle to fundraise.

"About three years ago, HOPS was about to close down. I just thought 'no that can't happen' and just took it up with the help of the other trustees," said Jackie.

Her determination resulted in a small grant from Children in Need in 2008, followed by nearly £50,000 this year.

Craft session at HOPS
Visit the HOPS website for details on how to volunteer

"It's also great for other fundraising, because people can see that Children in Need is supporting what is obviously a worthy cause."

That stability is welcomed by Helen. Her son Freddie has Down's Syndrome and has been coming to HOPS for the last four years.

"Since finding HOPS we've discovered he needs an environment where he's understood, where he isn't different, where he is the same as everyone else, where he's cared for," said Helen.

"There are so many children out there who would benefit from a scheme like this, who have disabilities and have difficulty accessing clubs.

"This sort of thing would be fantastic if it was in other areas, so other families can get the benefits we're getting."

HOPS runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the school summer holidays and for two days in the May half-term.

They also run a Saturday Club once a month throughout the year.

Where more money went

In April 2009, two other organisations serving Suffolk were given grants from Children in Need.

Tree Tops Pre-School and Out-of-hours Club in Lowestoft received £8,649. This project provides pre-school and after-school opportunities for 2-5 year olds.

Ellesmere Opportunity Group at Stetchworth near Newmarket was given £2,040 to help provide a weekly playgroup for children with disabilities.



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