Seven families with young children aged between 18 months and seven years have been given a ‘Bugzi’ boost.
They were recently given the opportunity to move independently for the first time, thanks to specialist equipment secured for them by Larne based charity, the Mae Murray Foundation.
The young children, all with mobility difficulties, had limited opportunities to explore their environment and as independent mobility is key to overall development this places them at risk of secondary impairments, such as spatial-perceptual and social-emotional delays.
All that is set to change thanks to locally-based Mae Murray Foundation, which campaigns for inclusive environments for all abilities and specialist equipment for those in need across Northern Ireland.
The team at Mae Murray have partnered with MERU, the national charity which creates the mini-powered wheelchairs (Bugzi) for children with mobility issues. MERU fundraise throughout the UK to be able to supply this specialist equipment to families for loan and have been doing so in other parts of the UK for the past six years.
Each Bugzi is tailored and adapted to each child’s individual needs, with the capacity to adjust seating and controls as he or she grows.
Mae Murray Foundation will host clinics from their Larne base so that young children from across the province will benefit, enabling them to increase their participation, explore their surroundings and simply have fun whilst building skills.
Alix Crawford, founder of the charity, whose daughter Talia has quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, said: “Seven children are being fitted for their Bugzi, which will allow many to move independently for the first time ever, something so many families take for granted as they watch their toddlers crawl and take their first steps.
“Powered wheelchairs can be offered through the NHS from age six, but sadly, many applications will be rejected as children may not have acquired the necessary skills to stay safe; having never had the opportunity to learn about spatial awareness and cause and effect. All infants should have the opportunity to learn and develop their skills through play.”
The Rotary Club in Larne and AM Next Day have funded the cost of the clinic which will see the children fitted for the Bugzi wheelchair.
Alix said: “Empowering a child with independence is a wonderful thing and can do so much for their self-esteem and we are very grateful to everyone involved in making independence a reality for these families. This equipment wasn’t available for my own daughter, Talia, in her early years and it was hard to watch her frustration at being unable to explore.
“A Bugzi wheelchair would have had a great impact on her understanding of the world and on her development. It can be very exasperating and limiting for children to be constantly relying on adults and a little bit of freedom opens up a whole world of possibilities.”
Alix set up the Mae Murray Foundation as she doesn’t believe that there should be compromises to be made by families of those with additional needs. The charity was set up in memory of Alix’s late mother, Mae Murray, whose estate provided the money required to establish the Foundation.
Alix said: “It is sad that, in this modern era, barriers still exist for so many people and their families. It is our vision to help create a society with true participation and providing these seven families with a Bugzi is a small but important step in this vision. We look forward to running more clinics and would encourage interested families to get in touch.”
Mae Murray Foundation is charity registered with the Charities Commission NI – NIC100842 and further information on its activities and events can be found at www.maemurrayfoundation.org.