A mayor has lavished praise on a community group which helped get her “back on her feet” after she suffered a stroke.
Coun Mary Cartwright, Mayor of Peterlee had a mild stroke in 2010, and another several months later, leaving her unable to use one of her arms and legs.
She underwent physiotherapy in hospital, but she credits the work of Happy Thursdays for helping to get her back to full health.
The group, which is set around mental health, well-being and physical activities, meets once a week at Peterlee Leisure Centre, with board games, football and basketball among the activities on offer.
Coun Cartwright, who was voted in as Peterlee’s Mayor for a second time in May, having also held the post in 2006-07, decided to attend the Happy Thursdays group, which is led by John Ber, after her stroke.
She said: “I was stuck in the house and wasn’t well.
The help and support I got from those people got me back on my feetCoun Mary Cartwright
“After speaking to John and hearing about Happy Thursdays, I got myself together and made sure I went on the mornings, and it was amazing. The help and support I got from those people got me back on my feet.
“I was doing physiotherapy at home and at hospital, but to have something extra, through activities like playing a game with a bat, playing tennis and using your hands and arms, was a God-send, and helped with my arm and leg co-ordination. I can’t congratulate the group enough on the work they do.”
Coun Cartwright added: “The group is for everyone, and could even be just for someone who is lonely or living on their own.
“John and his colleagues are a wonderful bunch of people, and I’d recommend the group to anyone.”
People pay £2 a week to attend, gaining them full use of gym facilities, as well as the chance to take part in a range of other activities.
It has also helped a number of people get back into full-time work having been on benefits, and Mr Ber estimates five cases in particular could help save the taxpayer £530,000 over the course of their lives.
He said: “It’s called Happy Thursdays for a reason. It’s very, very vibrant. It helps people rehabilitate and get back into the community, and breaks down barriers.
“Any adults can walk through the doors and be welcomed.”