THREE Oxfordshire charities have plenty to celebrate this week after receiving £20,679 of grant money from the Oxford Mail’s owners Gannett Media through the Gannett Foundation.

Yellow Submarine in Oxford, which organises residential holidays and short breaks, day trips and classes for young people and adults with learning disabilities, received £10,800.

Oxfordshire Playbus in Upper Heyford, a charity which provides and assists in the provision of recreational and leisure-time activities for children, young people and adults, received £2,879. SpecialEffect of Charlbury aims to give people with disabilities a better quality of life, providing them with technology to play computer games and was presented with £7,000.

Today we look at the three charities’ work and where the money will go.


YELLOW Submarine in Oxford organises residential holidays, day trips, classes and training courses for young people and adults with learning disabilities.

The charity, based in Park End Street, was singled out by the Gannett Foundation’s trustees, who praised their plan to open a smoothie and sandwich bar staffed by disabled people, and received £10,800.

Set up four years ago it has just three staff, but is backed by around 50 volunteers. Yellow Submarine support about 100 families in total, around 45 where they support children and 55 adults.

The funds will be used to create eight new jobs specifically for people with learning disabilities over the first year, as well as work experience and training opportunities.

Founder and manager Toby Staveley, 35, from Witney, said: “We are thrilled, absolutely delighted. “We get quite a bit of support from volunteers helping out but we hadn’t had any significant support towards the financial side. “This allows us to get things we couldn’t have got through volunteers and it’s brilliant news.

“The holidays were our principle work in the past but it is about more than that now. It is about people with learning difficulties who live at home and giving them the opportunity to live independently. “Learning skills to help them find jobs is really important so we asked for help with those sort of costs.”

Yellow Submarine hope they can address the issue of people with learning disabilities spending little time outside their homes as staff believe supported employment is a vital component of renewing their self-esteem. They say the Paralympics showed the value of showing disabled people in the community doing valued roles.

Mr Staveley added: “We’re planning to start a sandwich and smoothie bar we have an empty room with nothing in it which we want to transform into a cafe which can be used by the general public.

“We support people aged from 11 upwards and parents have indicated to us they would like them to have work placements and training programmes. With the support of that grant from the Oxford Mail we can start to get the project moving.”

Yellow Submarine are looking to fit out the space with an ambition to start trading in March 2013 and in future hope to cater for external events.

SPECIALEFFECT of Charlbury aims to give people with disabilities a better quality of life by providing them with technology to play computer games.

The charity, founded by Dr Mick Donegan, was presented with £7,000.
It was opened by David Cameron in 2007 and the seven full and part-time staff help thousands of young people each year.

Working with the young people, they lend them assistive technology, including adapted controllers, switches and sight-controlled computers.
These allow them to overcome physical disabilities to play computer games, make music and express themselves.

Nick Streeter, 37, from Witney, a part-time fundraiser, was delighted that the charity received the award.

His daughter Chloe, five, goes to the Batt School in Witney and is one of those to benefit from the charity’s services over the last 18 months.

Mr Streeter said: “This will help provide life changing opportunites to help people with disabiliies to enjoy video games and to control a computer.
“We are really shocked and over the moon. For a small charity it has been an amazing week.

“My daughter has an unrecognised disability which affects her balance and the charity has helped her to play computer games.
“It has really helped her and her friends as well.”

Rob Letts, 43, an executive producer with Electronic Arts, from Chalfont St Giles, was introducing his son Henry, three, to one of SpecialEffect’s systems on Friday.

Mr Letts said: “We took Henry up for the first time today. It was unbelievable – he made the connection and looked at something on the screen and got it working. It was a landmark moment and it is a whole new area of exploration for him.”

SpecialEffect has previously received support from Oxford United, with fans raising money for the charity in the 2011/12 season.
Former chairman Kelvin Thomas also took on the role of honorary vice president back in April.

Most recently skipper Jake Wright backed founder Dr Donegan to win a regional TalkTalk Digital Heroes Award for 2012, a title he sealed.
Mr Wright and his team-mates played a major part in the club’s Game4Charlotte campaign that raised more than £8,000 for both SpecialEffect and young Oxfordshire amputee Charlotte Nott earlier this year.

He’s urging people to vote online for Dr Donegan, who’s pledged that the winning award of £5,000 will be used in its entirety to help more people like Charlotte.

Dr Donegan was honoured as a “digital hero” at a House of Commons ceremony.

Dr Donegan was also awarded £5,000 at the Digital Heroes Award for the South East organised by Talk Talk on Wednesday.

OXFORDSHIRE Playbus travels across the county’s 1,006 square miles, providing recreational activities for children, young people and adults.
The charity, which has been around for more than 30 years, has nine staff, a mixture of full time and part time, and a couple of volunteers on the books as they visit over 5,000 kids a year.

The scope they cover ranges from working on a one-to-one basis on the sensory bus with up to 400 children and their families at a major event.
As well as their most well- known blue double decker bus, which is converted for play, they also have a youth bus, a sensory bus and a stage bus, which is what the £2,879 will be spent on improving.

Tym Soper, manager, said: “It is good news, fantastic and really surprising. We have to look at ways to find funding which is increasingly difficult.
“We have got the big blue double decker bus but we also have a sensory bus and a bus for young people, a total of four working buses. Children come to the bus and won’t leave.

“It is good to be recognised by the Oxford Mail like this. We do struggle with being a small charity and I think when the Government talk about the Big Society they haven’t recognised the difference between big charities and groups like us.

“It is increasingly hard for us to find funding so it is great for us to get a grant like this.”

The Playbus’ work is most valued in rural areas where play activities are limited. They also have a thriving Toy Library operating in rural areas.

Mr Soper, 47, from Chipping Norton, who has been working for the Playbus since 1996 and has been the manager since 2005, added: “We want to buy some staging which will enable us to go to some music festivals and events. We can then offer it on a small scale for a lot cheaper price and offer performances for young people.”


THE Gannett Foundation offers community groups the chance to apply for donations of between £5,000 and £10,000.

The grants are handed out every year by the charitable arm of Gannett Co Inc, the owners of the Oxford Mail and its sister titles.

Applications were reviewed by the Mail and the best ones are sent on to the Gannett Foundation to decide which lucky groups would receive grants.
Previous charities to benefit include Oxfordshire Crossroads, a charity which provides care for adults and children across the county.

It received £25,300 in 2009 to buy a van, converted so wheelchair users and their families could use it for anything from hospital visits to holidays.

Another previous winner was Orinoco, a charity based at Bullingdon Community Centre in Headington. The group, which collects and reuses commercial waste materials from businesses across Oxfordshire, was given £2,360 in 2006 for shelving and crates.