Charity battles back from the brink of extinction to open a new sensory centre

0
Have your say

A VITAL charity centre hit by a funding crisis has overcome the odds to unveil a major expansion.

The Space Centre in Ashton, Preston, had faced threats of closure amid major financial difficulties.

Photo Neil Cross'Astley Park School pupils in one of the new sensory rooms at The Space Centre

Photo Neil Cross'Astley Park School pupils in one of the new sensory rooms at The Space Centre

But following the Save Our Space campaign, backed by the Evening Post, the community rallied round to raise £500,000 and two new sensory rooms have finally been opened at the Pedders Lane facility, meaning the charity can help hundreds more families every week.

Fundraising co-ordinator, Lyndsay Hornby, said: “It’s been a very difficult 12 months. Staff were working without pay at one point, such was their dedication to save it from closure.

“The whole idea of the development was so that we could help more people, and it was completely soul destroying to think that not only could we lose out on that dream, but that the whole centre could close because of the debt.

“It was the public support which saved Space from closing, and which built the new rooms.”

Space 2 opened in June this year, and along with Space 1, is giving joy to more than 500 visitors each week.

The original building opened in 1993 and was developed by occupational therapist Alison Birch. Consisting of one sensory room, with projectors, light effects, music, a ball pool and a soft play slide and stairs, demand soon rose, and the decision was made to begin fundraising to open a second room and double the centre’s intake. Fundraising co-ordinator, Lyndsay Hornby, explains: “We’d never needed to fundraise before because it had been self-sufficient, but we really wanted to help more people.

“We applied for grants, and started building work at the Willows when we believed the money was secure.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t come off, so we had to launch a huge Save Our Space campaign to prevent it all from closing. It’s been a very difficult 12 months. Staff were working without pay at one point, such was their dedication to save it from closure.

“The whole idea of the development was so that we could help more people, and it was completely soul destroying to think that not only could we lose out on that dream, but that the whole centre could close because of the debt.”

She adds: “A company called Creative Support merged with us and paid off the creditors, and members of the public started donating.

“Everyone came out of the woodwork to help, and we raised half a million pounds.

“It was the public support which saved Space from closing, and which built Space 2.

“It’s such a relief. We’re ultimately where we want to be now – this is what we set out to achieve, it was just more difficult to get to this stage than we anticipated.”

Space 2 is similar in design to the original sensory room, but is more accessible to wheelchair users.

The rooms are hired out for hour-long sessions by families or groups such as schools, and staff at Space use special programmes and iPads to create specific themes for each visit.

Lighting, sound and projectors can be used to create themes such as underwater or outer space, and some visitors enjoy watching music videos or concerts on the large projector screen