IT’S taken almost four years of dedicated fundraising but the children of a Sunderland special school now have the pool of their dreams.
Sunningdale School, in Shaftoe Road, launched its hydrotherapy pool appeal in 2009 to raise more than £300,000 to build the vital facility for the pupils.
And yesterday a big celebration was held to officially open the pool, which is bringing smiles to the faces of both children and staff, and to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped raise the money.
The school, which caters for children aged three to 11 years old with profound, multiple and complex learning difficulties, was in urgent need of the pool to replace the tiny old one, which was costing hundreds of pounds each year to maintain and wasn’t fit for purpose.
Celia Wright, headteacher at Sunningdale, said: “It has been a long journey to get here, but so worth it. The new pool is fantastic.
“It’s all about meeting the needs of our pupils and we can do that now.
“It has sounds and lights to meet their sensory needs and we can also use it for learning, by introducing colours and things like that.”
As well as the pool itself, there are now state-of-the-art changing facilities including a special hoist which can carry the children from the changing/shower bed right into the water.
Carol Dunn, a special needs curriculum worker at the school, said the new pool is in use every single day and the change it has made to the lives of the children is massive.
She said: “They just love being out of their wheelchairs and in the water, that’s when you get the best communication from them.”
Mrs Wright said the pool would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for the generosity of Sunderland residents and a plaque has been put in place to dedicate the pool to all those who helped raise the money and made the dream of a new pool possible.
Staff, parents, the community, businesses and friends of the school raised £140,000 by spring 2012 and Sunderland City Council then donated £200,000 that allowed the project to go ahead and the pool was completed earlier this year.
Mrs Wright said: “Since the start of our appeal we have had wonderful support from local businesses, community groups, individual members of the public and the local authority.
“Some donations have been large, some small, but all have been extremely important and valuable.”
Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Pat Smith, said: “Sunningdale School is such an important part of the community and we were delighted to be able to support the fund-raising campaign and raise the finds necessary for the work to go ahead.”