A DISABLED woman is helping others improve their social lives.
Toni-Ann Wood has battled learning, physical and mental disabilities, and was told she was unlikely to live past her teenage years.
But at the age of 26, she won a gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and is now part of a support groups for her peers.
After her story was published in the Echo earlier this year, she was contacted by youth worker Joanne Laverick, from Youth Almighty, and asked to help launch a new group for disabled adults.
Silksworth-based Youth Almighty was awarded funding to launch the pilot project – which is yet to be named - for disabled people over 25.
The new group will meets at Plains Farm Community Centre every Monday between 6.30pm and 8pm.
It is another achievement for brave Toni-Ann, who as a youngster couldn’t speak, had tumours on her legs and wasn’t expected to live past her teenage years.
She said: “We are going to go bowling, have movie nights, go to the Empire Theatre and the cinema.
“I’m going to make sure everyone is having fun and they come back.”
Mum Karen Wood, community development officer at Pallion Action Group, said disabled people were often isolated once they left education.
She said: “With them being vulnerable, you have to think of activities.
“It is very easy to put them on a PlayStation or a Xbox, but they want to go out and experience more.
“They want the things that other people do, in a safe environment.”
Organisations from around the city have pitched in to help get the project off the ground, including Sunderland City Council and Gentoo.
Skills centre Learning Curve, which works with unemployed youngsters, offered to paint the group’s new base.
James Luck, learner recruitment officer, said: “I work quite closely with Karen and when Toni approached us, I knew they had not got much funding, so it was a no brainer.
“It will be a good experience for our learners.”