Milestone reached at Percy Hedley

Stephen Darke, centre, celebrates 65 years since Percy Hedley School'opened alongside chief executive Carole Harder and chair of trustees Jonathan Jowett.
Stephen Darke, centre, celebrates 65 years since Percy Hedley School'opened alongside chief executive Carole Harder and chair of trustees Jonathan Jowett.

A leading charity is celebrating 65 years of improving the lives of disabled people in the region.

The Percy Hedley Foundation first began in 1953 when 12 children with cerebral palsy were admitted to Percy Hedley School in Forest Hall.

One of those children, Stephen Darke, is now 76 and lives at the charity’s adult residence Chipchase House.

It was Stephen’s parents, Stephen and Molly Darke, who first campaigned for a school where their disabled son, and others like him, could go.

They wrote to the Evening Chronicle, appealing for other parents for cerebral palsy children to come forward.

Funding came from the Percy Hedley Foundation, a Trust created after the death of a local engineer to support charities in the North East.

Over six decades, the Foundation has grown from a small school to provide support for 1,000 families a year, offering a range of residential and day services for adults and children with disabilities.

To celebrate 65 years, the Foundation hosted a special coffee morning for residents at Chipchase House, some of whom were pupils at Percy Hedley when it first opened.

Carole Harder, chief executive at The Percy Hedley Foundation, said: “When Stephen and Molly Darke set up a school for 12 children, they had no idea that it would develop into an organisation that 65 years later supports over 1,000 children and adults across the North East every year. It’s a fantastic legacy and we are delighted that their son Stephen helped us celebrate this very special birthday.”