'Rescue missions' to get pupils safely back to school - after breakdowns from an old minibus - are over, thanks to a new bus funded by The Bingo Association.
Washington’s Columbia Grange School forked out huge sums on garage repair bills for its increasingly unreliable 13-year-old minibus, as it regularly broke down during local trips and longer journeys.
Lesley Mavin, headteacher of the school, which caters for two to 11 year olds with autism and severe learning difficulties, said: “The regular breakdowns caused us great difficulties in having to do ‘rescue missions’ to bring pupils safely back to school.
"On one occasion we had to use staff cars and our seven seater people carrier.
“We christened the bus on the same day as we received delivery of it – we couldn’t wait!
"We have already used the coach for lots of trips to places such as the supermarket where we bought ingredients for our teddy bear’s picnic!”
Columbia Grange School’s minibus was officially handed over to Lesley by the Bingo Association’s Chief Executive Miles Baron during a special ceremony held at the school, last month.
Also in attendance at the event was Liam Watkinson of Gala Club Washington.
The Bingo Association funded the minibus in support of Variety, the Children’s Charity.
Lesley said: “The whole school, staff parents, governors and pupils are really grateful to Variety and the Bingo Association for making our new minibus a reality.”
The 17 seater vehicle, official known as a Variety Sunshine Coach, is the 15th donated by the Bingo Association in the last three years, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the bingo industry, their staff and customers. The organisation has now raised more than £1million for Variety.
Miles said: “More than 350 bingo clubs across the UK made this very worthy donation of a Sunshine Coach possible and so I must thank the staff and bingo players for their support.
"As an industry we are delighted to be able to help more children get the most out of their childhood and reach their unique potential.”
Variety has been helping improve the lives of young people who are sick, disabled or disadvantaged since 1949.
Colleen Ettridge, Head of Fundraising at Variety, the Children’s Charity said: “We have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the Bingo Association, its members and their customers.
"Variety Sunshine Coaches enable children and young people with special needs to get the most out of school life by accessing learning and recreational facilities outside of the school environment.”