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'Smart' area for youngsters

PUBLISHED: 18:38 10 July 2008 | UPDATED: 11:22 03 July 2010

OFFICIALLY OPEN: Woody Bear opens new garden

OFFICIALLY OPEN: Woody Bear opens new garden

Dominic Bareham

THEME park mascot Woody the Bear felt at home when he visited a charity for children with communication problems to open a new sensory garden.

The Pleasurewood Hills figurehead gave the thumbs-up after cutting the ribbon to open the £22,500 garden at Autistic Way's Smart Kids OK centre on Gapton Hall Industrial Estate, Great Yarmouth.

THEME park mascot Woody the Bear felt at home when he visited a charity for children with communication problems to open a new sensory garden.

The Pleasurewood Hills figurehead gave the thumbs-up after cutting the ribbon to open the £22,500 garden at Autistic Way's Smart Kids OK centre on Gapton Hall Industrial Estate, Great Yarmouth. The garden boasts many theme park-style attractions including a pirate ship and swinging logs to help the youngsters improve their social skills.

Woody was joined by other dignitaries including mayor Terry Easter and MP Tony Wright.

And the new facility, which opened last Friday , was also given the thumbs-up by the children, who suffer from autism and Asperger's Syndrome.

Joshua Baylis, nine, who particularly enjoyed playing basketball and football - two of the sports catered for by the new play area. Asperger's sufferer Joshua was particularly pleased to meet Woody because dad Tony is a gardener at the Lowestoft theme park.

He said: “It is better than the old garden because in the old one we did not have much stuff to do. Because we have now got the new things it is like a theme park.”

He attends the centre on Saturday mornings and for afternoon clubs.

Harry Porter, 16, said: “I like it. I enjoy playing on the swinging logs and making sand castles in the sand.”

Anna Homer, senior play worker and fundraiser at Smart Kids, said the colourful garden had been designed with team games in mind so all the children, aged between three and 18, could feel included which would help them overcome their problems socialising.

She said: “We want them to have a smile on their face. Actually seeing a child have fun is the reward we get from doing our jobs.”

The play area, which also enables the children to learn about gardening, received funding from a variety of sources including Radio Broadland, The Prince's Trust, Beach Radio's Help an East Coast Child and The Geoffrey Watling Charity. It was created by the firm Playforce Ltd.

The centre was set up by Jacky Porter because there was nowhere for her autistic son Harry to go locally, but only a year ago the vital facility was just days from closing after funding had dried up.

But a £300,000 lottery grant and money from the Norfolk Community Foundation arrived just in time.

Each child pays £6 to use the centre for up to three hours on a weekday morning and £15 to use the facilities on Saturday mornings.

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