Sensory room on wheels visits children at homes

Pre-lockdown plans by Congleton charity Ruby's Fund to buy a sensory room on wheels, so it can visit children at home, could not have come at a better time.
The project to purchase the sensory bus had been eight months in the planning and earlier this year the charity, which has a sensory room and café on Roe Street, was awarded a grant of almost £50,000 by the Mark Benevolent Fund to buy the vehicle.
Ruby's Fund founder Alison Parr said: “The idea came from our families who told us that sometimes they couldn't always get to see us at the centre due to the needs of their child.
“We didn't want them to miss out on the support, services and facilities that we offer at Ruby's Fund and the idea of a mobile sensory room seemed like the ideal solution.
“When the huge pink bus turns up outside their homes, it's like when the ice cream van arrives, their faces light up. The bus is amazing!”
Complete with fibre optics, an infinity tunnel, bubble tube, bean bags and cushions, it has been to homes across the borough during the last five weeks and as far afield as Nantwich. The vehicle has also been able to deliver Ruby's Fund good bags and activity bags.
“We've been inundated with requests for a visit,” said Mrs Parr. “It's been eight months in the planning. We were awarded the vehicle pre-covid and had installed the wheelchair ramp when covid struck.
“The vehicle was still down south for two months while everyone was furloughed.”
She added: “For us it has meant we can continue to have socially-distanced face to face contact with children and their families. It's been really positive.
“The sensory room is a positive experience for children as it's relaxing, fun and engaging, and something families can do together.”
Darren Coleman-Heald, charities manager of the Mark Benevolent Fund, said: “The Mark Benevolent Fund is the official charity of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons, the third largest branch of Freemasonry. We are delighted to have joined forces with Ruby's Fund in this all-important mobile sensory room project. It reaches deep into the heart of the community, giving enjoyment and stimulation to children with additional needs. Our 36,000 members will be pleased to know that their donations are being used wisely by helping those in need.”
Mrs Parr added: “Throughout August, we aim to visit all of the children who usually have short breaks with us at our sensory centre. As the premises is not yet able to open, the team at Ruby's Fund hopes that a visit from our staff in the mobile sensory bus will cheer up not only the children but their whole family.”
The charity hopes to reopen its sensory room and café at Meridian House on Roe Street in September, to coincide with the reopening of schools.
Ruby's Fund launched a £295,000 fund-raising appeal last year to buy its building and Mrs Parr said that with money donated so far, the charity had raised a “significant amount” of the deposit towards a mortgage but that everything had been on pause because of the pandemic.
Ruby's Fund is named after Mrs Parr's daughter Ruby who was born in 2007 and later diagnosed with isodicentric 15 syndrome, which occurs during the formation of cells. Her symptoms include seizures, cognitive difficulties and behavioural issues and her parents founded the charity to create a sensory room in Congleton as previously there were no such facilities locally.
The premises is now used by children and families across the borough and beyond.