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Gympanzees fundraises for UK’s first permanent play centre for kids with disabilities

A woman with girl on the swings
Photo: Gympanzees

Bristol-based charity, Gympanzees, wants to raise enough funds to establish the UK’s first play centre specifically for kids and young people with disabilities.

Gympanzees needs to raise £2.2m to acquire a building and fill it with accessible exercise and soft play equipment for children with disabilities, reported Business Live.

Currently, the charitable organization operates a pop-up facility in a special school, which is converted into an activity centre during school holidays.

The Queen’s Award winner for enterprise and innovation wants to open a permanent facility in the city by 2023.

The permanent centre would accommodate children and young people, up to 25 years of age, with sensory, physical, and learning disabilities, as well as special educational needs, and any mild to profound disability.

The facility would be open seven days a week and would also service children without disabilities. Rooms would feature trampolines, sensory and soft play, a specialist gym, accessible playgrounds, exercise suites, therapy rooms, and a community cafe.

Founded in 2017 by physiotherapist Stephanie Wheen, Gympanzees was created because of the lack of any inclusive play centres that were suitable for the children with disabilities that she worked with.

Wheen estimated there are 66,000 children and young people with disabilities, that live within an hour of Bristol, needing a stable place to support their overall well-being.

She added, “We’ve received huge amounts of support and proven our concept with our equipment lending library, online resources and temporary pop-up events, which have seen 8,000 visitors over 58 days, with some families travelling over five hours for an hour-and-a-half session.

“The response to our plans has been fantastic and we are incredibly excited to enter this new stage and take our families and supporters with us on this new journey.”

Emma Louise, from Locking, North Somerset, has a daughter who uses a wheelchair. Louise said having a permanent Gympanzees facility would give the family a “sense of belonging.”

She said, “To have a place where all children are celebrated because of their abilities and for her to be able to play with other children with different needs and disabilities, where everyone feels welcome and safe, it would be huge for us. There is nothing like it in the UK.”

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