Youngsters with serious illnesses will now be able to stay overnight at Grace House after the charity was finally given the green light by a watchdog to offer the service.
After more than a decade of tireless fund-raising, the Southwick facility will now be taking in about 25 youngsters after chiefs obtained Ofsted accreditation.
I’d urge people to come and meet the team, have a look around and see if we are the right place for them.Dr Karen Parry
The late BBC Radio Newcastle broadcaster Kathy Secker joined forces with the Echo to help start an appeal for donations in 2002.
For years, generous Wearsiders have dug deep to hold fund-raising events for the good of the respite centre, which was originally set to be a hospice.
More than £5million was generated towards the appeal.
Since building work was finished last summer, Grace House has been offering day services and play sessions to children.
But now that overnight stays are set to be started, the charity’s chief executive Dr Karen Parry says the unit can begin to have a real lasting effect on the lives of families who have a youngster with a serious condition.
Grace House chief executive Dr Karen Parry said: “Ofsted inspected us on March 1 and they have passed us as suitable for overnight stays now.
“They’ll be back in six months time and another six months after that.
“We want all families of those with disabled children in the North East to know that Grace House is an option for them if they need us.
“The main barrier is sometimes some guilt or worry because our care team may be the first non-family people who have looked after their child.
“But if they come and look around at the facilities, then very few leave disappointed.
“I’d urge people to come and meet the team, have a look around and see if we are the right place for them.”
The centre contains eight bedrooms, all of which are suited to cater for children with complex disabilities.
There is also one larger room to allow youngsters to have sleepovers with pals who are also poorly.
Adapted bathrooms are also housed as is a play area, sensory and music rooms, as well as a library and gaming area.
Overnight stays are available for children aged between five and 18, with those from nought to five also considered.
A celebration of Kathy’s achievements will be held on May 14, with members of her family set to attend.
One of her quotes has been used as an inscription in the entrance to the respite centre.
It reads: “Children deserve to have an amazing place where they can come to laugh, learn and live life to the full.
“Together we can make Grace House that place.”
Speaking about Kathy, Dr Parry added: “In 20 years time people will need to know that Kathy was the driving force behind this centre.
“I don’t think she was the type of person who wanted a plaque, so this is more suitable.
“We wouldn’t be here now if it wasn’t for her.”
For more information about Grace House or to donate towards the appeal go to www.gracehouse.co.uk or call 597 9191.