AUTISTIC adults who access our day services have gotten 2022 off to a healthy start, after generous donations meant an outdoor gym could be installed at one of our centres in Sunderland.

The Society raised almost £5,000 for the specialist equipment which was installed at our 'Number 24' provision, in Thornhill, recently.

Number 24, which offers social and vocational programmes for autistic individuals aged 18 and over, received generous donations from parents, as well as a £2,100 grant from charitable organisation the Hospital of God.

And the gym has already been a hit with those who access the service, with one describing it as “the best gym ever”, while another said: “It was really good and fun.”

Speaking about the impact that the equipment will have on the physical and mental well-being of the adults, Alfie Scales, Senior Programme Support Worker, says: “Having access to fitness equipment has really improved the fitness and well-being of our adults.

With the equipment being on site and accessible, this allows individuals to work out in a calmer and quiet environment, as some public gyms can be busy and/or overwhelming.

A total of four new fitness machines have been installed in the outdoor garden of the detached property, including: an arm bike, rowing machine, cross trainer and a waist twist machine.

Alfie adds: “Having an outdoor gym has its benefits, allowing individuals to be outdoors, away from classrooms or computers and breathing in the fresh air while exercising and experiencing the sensory garden while they exercise. For some individuals who struggle with small or confined spaces this offers an alternative way to keep fit within a safe and natural environment.”

Parents of adults who have accessed the service over the years also donated to the cause. Nail Guirguis, whose son David attends day services at Number 24, donated £1,000 to the cause.

While Tracey and Bryan Stephenson, whose daughter Emma was supported by NEAS for five years, also made a generous pledge following Emma’s passing, aged 33, in April 2020.

Emma’s uncle David Gamble ran the Great North Run just five months later and raised more than £1,800 for NEAS, which he donated to the charity in memory of his niece - something Tracey says Emma would be delighted about.

“Emma loved everyone at Number 24 and will be watching over them all,” Tracey says.

She’d be so pleased that everyone was using the gym equipment to stay healthy and, no doubt, would have fundraised herself by baking and selling her cheese scones.

The gym equipment will not only benefit the 25 adults who access Number 24 on a regular basis, but also the other autistic and neurodivergent children, young people and adults who are supported by the 42-year-old charity.

“Here at Number 24 we strive to give our adults the best possible experience while attending our day service, if everyone is smiling and enjoying life then I feel we are doing well,” Alfie adds.

 “We appreciate each kind donation and it really does make a difference. And without those donations, this simply wouldn’t have been possible.”

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