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Funding drive for specially adapted van for children living in Nairn and the Highlands with autism

By Donald Wilson

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Finlay McKenzie on a day at the seaside with support worker Jon Lane
Finlay McKenzie on a day at the seaside with support worker Jon Lane

A support worker who provides one-to-one care for children and young adults with autism and learning difficulties is hoping within the next few months he will have funding in place to provide a specially adapted van or minibus for his clients.

Jon Lane, from Cawdor, who runs the service OutThere, is a former care and support manager and recently received an unexpected donation of more than £700 from two personal support assistants at Nairn Academy towards the project.

A crowdfunding campaign last year raised more than £4500 and Jon said he is expecting a substantial donation as a memorial to his mother, who died last year, that will go a long way towards meeting the cost of his innovative transport vehicle.

One of his clients, Finlay McKenzie is a pupil at Nairn Academy, and his teachers Leona Ross and Julie Mackintosh did a walking marathon which raised £773 towards the £15,000 project.

“We stopped pushing the fundraising when Covid began to bite last year because people had so many other pressures on their minds, not least personal finances,” Jon said.

“However, Finlay’s teachers hadn’t forgotten what we are trying to do and what they did left me absolutely speechless. I’m so grateful to them for their efforts.

“I am now hopeful I could take delivery of a suitable vehicle within the next two to three months.”

The vehicle will be specially adapted with cooking facilities and a toilet so young people can be taken out on day trips to enjoy the area.

Having 25 years’ experience in the care sector, Jon has drawn on his experience to design an activity vehicle including a sensory room which will provide much-needed respite for families.

“Many parents told me accessing a sensory space was nearly impossible, and meant long drives with other family members and undue stress on the child needing this kind of relaxing environment,” he said.

“So I came up with the solution to bring the sensory room to the parents. There will even be space for outdoor activity equipment such as bikes, tents, footballs and kites.”

Finlay’s mum Lisa said: “Jon has been supporting us looking after Finlay for the last five years. He does an amazing job, and we are so grateful to him.

“This vehicle will be a tremendous boost, not just for Finlay, but many other families.”

John said he has interest from other charities who have expressed a willingness to help with the cost of fitting out the vehicle.

To donate, visit gf.me/u/ygvmtz

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