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A small charity with a big impact – our support goes beyond funding life-changing equipment

Hi Sunshine News Readers,

When people ask what The Sunshine Fund does, we tell them how we fund life-changing equipment for local children living with complex needs. However, a lot of people don’t realise exactly how far our support goes, both in terms of the vast range of equipment we fund, but also beyond equipment as well.

Who do we fund equipment for? We provide equipment for babies, children and young adults across living with disabilities, additional needs and terminal illness across the North East region. We fund equipment from the age of 0 up to their 19th birthday.

We often build relationships with our families, whether they apply for just one piece of equipment, attend our events or if we support them with multiple pieces of equipment throughout their childhood – we have seen so many children grow and we’ve seen first-hand how a piece of equipment can enable them to reach their full potential.

What types of equipment do we fund? These can be split into four categories: IT and communication, living aids, mobility and sensory and play. When families are applying for equipment we encourage them to think outside the box; as a charity we believe that every child deserves equal opportunities and the right to share experiences with their friends and siblings, regardless of their needs, and so often a piece of equipment can help achieve that. Sometimes it isn’t strictly about being deemed ‘essential’; if it helps a child strive and provides enrichment, then we support it.

Examples of IT and communication equipment can include iPads and laptops costing at least £400, as well as eye gaze technology costing in their thousands. These can be used to provide access to digital tools for children with visual impairments, help develop communication skills for children who are non-verbal, and/or help children with additional needs progress learning away from school.

Living aids can include specialist seating or adapted beds; an example of a living aid from our most recent equipment round includes a car seat costing £408, to offer protection for a child who suffers from dystonia episodes and seizures.

Items in the mobility category include wheelchairs, buggies and walking frames. In our most recent equipment round, we saw items like a buggy pod which attaches to a wheelchair for a family where both children have mobility needs, and this was priced at £255. On the other end of the scale we also had a walker and a powerchair both costing a minimum of £5,000.

One of the most popular items in the sensory and play category are trikes, which can range from £400 up to £3,000, or sometimes more. This is because every child’s need is so different, and this often means they need to be specially adapted or have various add-ons, so that it is appropriate for the individual child and their needs. The difference a trike can make to a childhood is incredible; it allows them to join in with their friends, race their siblings and ride to school in style!

Our last equipment round saw a huge variety of sensory and play items, such as a sensory bundle costing £118 which contained a peanut ball amongst other tools to help a child with autism, ADHD or sensory processing difficulties. Other items included a playframe (£500) and a trampoline (£400); we fund indoor and outdoor play items as many children are unable to play in public parks as they can find them overwhelming and overstimulating. We believe all children should be able to play, and this offers them a safe space to have fun, release energy and improve physical activity, in a comfortable environment.

However, our support goes further than funding equipment. We have a families hotline which allows parents/carers to talk to our family co-ordinator, Bev, where they can ask questions, receive expert advice, be directed to the correct place if we are unable to offer direct support, and sometimes just for a friendly chat (or rant!) to somebody who understands, somebody who has lived experience.

We also put on a number of free events for our Sunshine Families, giving them the opportunity to get involved in activities and create and cherish memories in a welcoming, comfortable environment, where price and accessibility aren’t barriers.

Where do we cover? Our office is based in Newcastle but we cover the whole of the North East. A list of eligible postcodes can be found at We are continuously trying to spread our presence across the region, and we are looking at putting on more family events in different areas, so they are more accessible to all of our families. The North East has the highest levels of disability in the UK, making up 29% of our population.

Why do we do what we do? We do what we do because we understand the struggles that our families face on a daily basis. We know by seeing firsthand the impact these pieces of equipment can have on a child with additional needs, and on their whole family, and we are passionate about giving kids equal opportunities to reach their full potential.

We understand that while so many of these items of equipment become essential assets to a family’s day-to-day lives, they aren’t funded through services like the NHS or Local Authority. Sometimes, a child will get funding for a piece of equipment, such as a wheelchair, but it won’t come with the accessories needed to ensure the child is comfortable. We also understand that a lot of these items fall outside the average family’s budget, let alone families where a child has complex needs, who on average face additional monthly costs of £260, but can be as high as £1,000 per month.

How do we do what we do?  Despite being one of the longest standing charities in the region, operating for 95 years already, there’s often a misconception that we are amply funded by the NHS or by local government, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. We rely solely on the generosity of our supporters who donate to our cause, to allow us to continue our hard work.

We need £320,000 per year to continue supporting local disabled children, which is why our events are so important as they generate the income needed to tick items off our waiting list. Demand in equipment is growing with a 43% rise in applications last year; this may be due to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and cuts to statutory funding, meaning families rely on charities like ours to receive the equipment their children so desperately need.

How can you help us? There are many ways readers can support our small charity; click here to see upcoming events you can take part in, or click here to see if there are any external challenges you can join to raise funds for us.

If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so online by clicking here.  You can make a bank transfer or send a cheque using the details below, or you can donate from the comfort of your phone.

Text SUNSHINE 5 to 70085 to make a one-off donation of £5 or text EQUIPMENT 5 to 70085 to make a monthly gift of £5. Simply change the number to anything from 2 – 20 to adjust the amount you donate.

We also have a weekly lottery where players can help generate regular sustainable income, whilst also having the chance to win something back! It costs just £1 per ticket, and you have the opportunity to win the national prize of £25,000, plus a local prize pot and monthly bonus prizes. This month, players can get their hands on a Nintendo Switch Bundle, or take the £1,000 cash prize. To sign up, click here.

Thanks for reading,

Sophie X