A charity helping more people with disabilities get onto the region’s beaches has received a financial boost.
Beach Access North East provides free-loan beach accessible wheelchairs for users to enjoy as much freedom as possible at the seaside.
The charity, which operates all year round, currently has two wheelchairs and a floating chair available at Tynemouth Longsands, two wheelchairs at Blyth South Beach and two longer leg length three-wheeler chairs, which can be used at both locations.
Officials are hoping to extend the service to cover Whitley Bay beach in the future.
Now, after being nominated by Lorna Moore, one of the charity’s founders and a customer at Newcastle Building Society’s Park View branch in Whitley Bay, a £3,000 society grant has enabled the charity to buy a new ‘Freedom Trax’ all-terrain electric wheelchair to add to its ‘for hire’ list.
The funding has been provided by the Newcastle Building Society Community Fund at the Community Foundation.
Caroline Corfield, who set up the charity with Lorna Moore and Sue Rowley, said: “Our aim is to give as many people as possible the chance to access these wonderful environments.
“We’ve seen our numbers gradually growing.
“Having this new all-terrain wheelchair is a brilliant addition to our equipment list, and the society’s generous contribution to its purchase has meant we’ve been able to buy it far sooner than would have been possible.”
She added: “We have a great team of dedicated volunteers who give their time to making sure those that want our wheelchairs can get them when they need them, and we’re also going into local schools to help spread the word about the service we provide.”
The charity, which has record-breaking north east Paralympian Steven Miller as its honorary president, is also investigating whether mats could be used on certain sections of beach to make it even easier for people to get out onto them.
It is also planning to buy a number of beach walkers, which will help stroke patients stay steady as they cross the sand.
Stephen Andrews, manager at Newcastle Building Society’s Whitley Bay branch, said: “We’re very lucky to have such fantastic beaches right on our doorstep and Beach Access North East’s work towards making make them as accessible as possible is extremely impressive.
“Its positive impact on the local community matches our culture of giving direct support to the places in which we’re based, and we’re very pleased to be helping it further extend its excellent work.”