Lions’ delight as pool is opened

A Morpeth community group and supporters contributed to the fund-raising for a new facility at a Northumberland school that will provide helpful physiotherapy sessions to pupils with a range of complex physical and learning disabilities.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 7:39 am
Updated Thursday, 17th October 2019, 5:32 pm
Front, Stephen Miller. Back, from left, Lauren Caisley, Margaret Trewick, Chris Offord and Les Sage.

The state-of-the-art hydrotherapy pool – which features adaptive technologies, including ambient lighting, to create a stimulating, interactive environment – was officially unveiled by Paralympic gold medallist Stephen Miller earlier this month.

The £650,000 investment in the pool was partially fund-raised by Cleaswell Hill School, which called upon support from local businesses and members of the community to help find the final £230,000 it needed in addition to the £420,000 it had managed to ringfence as capital spend to complete the project.

The school in Guide Post has participated in The Lions Club of Morpeth’s annual Dickens of a Draw Christmas raffle for many years.

When teacher Lauren Caisley and a colleague mentioned the hydrotherapy pool project to the Lions in 2017, it was of particular interest to Lion Margaret Trewick, who was then the club’s vice-president.

Margaret, who is the district’s physical and learning difficulties officer, was looking for a project to assist in her presidential year.

It was, therefore, arranged that she with then club president Chris Offord and other Lions members would visit Cleaswell Hill to find out more about the school and the project.

The school aims to provide a happy, secure and stimulating environment that allows children to become successful learners, confident individuals and responsible citizens.

This is only possible because of the committed and talented teaching and support staff backed up by a team of visiting professionals.

These include speech, language and occupational therapists and physiotherapists.

Fund-raising co-ordinator Lauren explained to the Lions members that a hydrotherapy pool uses physical water properties such as temperature and pressure to allow essential physiotherapy to be carried out in both a relaxed and safe environment.

The pool also includes light and sound systems to provide a rich sensory and often interactive experience that can encourage independence.

During the visit, the school staff and children were shown that Lions can interact with other jungle animals. In this instance, they were introduced to Georgia the giraffe.

Georgia started life as a 5ft Décopatch model used by Steve and Fiona Greenway of Lateral Art – at the time based at Packhorse Buildings, off Newgate Street in Morpeth, and now based in Chantry Place.

They invited children to come up with a name for the giraffe and thus Georgia was named.

Rather than dispense with the model, they invited Lion Les Sage to make use of it for fund-raising purposes.

Les and Margaret got their heads together and decided that Georgia would make an ideal collecting box once appropriate slots were installed.

Due to Georgia’s dimensions, if filled with £1 coins it could contain up to £3,000 – although it was appreciated that as time and donations progressed so would the weight, so it was necessary for an emptying trapdoor to be installed.

A further idea was to take Georgia to various locations to encourage donations, which resulted in hundreds of additional pounds being raised.

Subsequently, the club donated a total of £5,000 towards the pool.

Moving forward 18 months, members of the club were invited to the opening.

Headteacher Mike Jackson thanked the more than 100 local organisations and private benefactors for their generosity, including The Lions Club of Morpeth.

He added: “We are absolutely thrilled to officially launch our new hydrotherapy pool.

“Hydrotherapy is an incredibly important part of our physical activity provision to students at Cleaswell Hill.

“Prior to opening our new facility, the closest hydrotherapy pool to the school was more than half an hour’s drive away, which took a large portion of teaching time out of the children’s school day when travelling back and forward.

“Having access to our own pool will give us more flexibility about how and when we deliver sessions and will enable us to open up hydrotherapy to more of our learners.”

Chris said: “This is a wonderful facility that will greatly benefit the students.

“Our club is pleased to have helped bring this about.”

Stephen said: “I am delighted to open Cleaswell Hill School's new hydrotherapy pool, it's a great honour for me.

“I know how much I benefited from hydrotherapy when I was at school and this will make a huge difference to the lives of the children attending Cleaswell Hill, as well as the local community.

“This is an amazing area and projects like this show how much people are willing to pull together and help each other when the need arises."