THE appeal to raise £350,000 for the Chiltern Centre for disabled children in Henley has reached its target in less than two years.
The Building Our Future Appeal was launched in February last year when the Greys Road centre had low cash reserves and was facing the threat of closure.
Now the charity is looking in better shape after months of hard work, fund-raising and generous donations.
The appeal, which was supported by the Standard, was re-launched as the Chiltern Jubilee Appeal in April to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee and since August has raised £58,000. A family day held at Sir William McAlpine’s Fawley Hill estate in May made £44,000 while other contributors have included businessman Chris Ward’s Three Peaks Challenge, which raised £5,000.
South Oxfordshire District Council is to give the centre a grant of £25,000 a year for the next four years but the charity still needs to raise £200,000 each year just to keep running.
Paul Barrett, chairman of the trustees, said: “There is a big group of people that have helped and it is fantastic how much support we have had. One person gave £10,000, which makes a big difference. The final push will be the money coming from the Henley Living Advent Calendar.
“It is quite wonderful what has been achieved and this has given us just a little bit of breathing space.
“The difference between £200,000 and £350,000 means we have got a few more months’ cover that we might not otherwise have had. Without it we would have had to shut our doors.
“We have stabilised the funds but every January we have to climb the mountain again to find £200,000 to keep the centre going.”
The centre, which has 22 staff and volunteers, provides respite care for more than 85 families of disabled children across the Thames Valley.
It offers overnight and day care for children and young people with severe physical and learning disabilities.
Opened in 2004 by parents and supporters, the centre has been extended with the help of a £268,000 Social Enterprise Investment Fund.
The development included a multi-sensory room, lounge and dining areas, another two bedrooms, bringing the total to five, and a state-of-the-art bathroom.
The work was completed in October last year.
The district council donated £12,000 towards and the charity received a £25,000 donation from rugby charity Wooden Spoon. Mr Barrett said the number of families using the centre had remained steady but now the trustees were exploring options to develop the service.
He said: “We are targeting two new areas. The first is a slightly older group as currently we stop at age 18 because we are a children’s charity.
“People are often still living at home so the parents need a break, or they may be living in some sort of supported living accommodation, so it is nice for them to have a change of scenery or a night away.
“The other area we want to target is the parents of children who have received medical negligence claims.
“This is typically children who have perhaps had oxygen deprivation around birth and ended up with cerebral palsy as a result of malpractice by a hospital.
“These cases can sometimes take five years to settle but the settlement is normally substantial. The parents of such children have got the money so are not typical of the people who come to us, who are normally dependent on state grants.
“These parents have funds and want the best quality care and we are able to provide that. They can afford to pay what it costs us to provide that service so we do not have to subsidise the gap.”