‘This is why we do it’
25th April 2023
Ambassadeurs Group donates £50,000 to CHIPS charity to fund new wheelchairs and transform the lives of five children and their families
Twins bring double of everything. For the mum of Alex and Sam Bolton from Derby, that means double mischief, double fun, and – at 17-years-old – double the desire for independence. They are two of five children who have been helped on their way to independence after a £50,000 donation by Ambassadeurs Group (AG) to CHIPS charity has funded new state of the art wheelchairs.
The new wheelchairs mean Alex and Sam, who both have Spinal Muscular Atrophy, will be able to continue their studies at university and pursue their dreams to become film makers when they leave school in the summer. The chairs are both a feat of engineering and a work of art. They are not just adapted for the boys’ weight and the position in which they sit and eat, they can also be fitted with attachments to hold cameras to assist them in their education.
It is five years since the twins received their first specially adapted powered wheelchairs from CHIPS. ‘They have been driven to disrepair since then,’ says Linda Lindsay, CHIPS co-founder. She is proud that the charity is able to help the twins a second time and before they are too old to receive help from CHIPS – its cut of age is 18. ‘We are a very small charity funded by the casino and gaming industry in the UK,’ explains Linda. ‘We have handed out over 670 chairs over the years and raised in excess of £3m.’
Five children and Harry Potter
The five children who received AG funded chairs joined their parents and carers, as well as the wheelchair suppliers who take an active interest in all the children they work with, at a Hertfordshire restaurant before a tour of The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Brothers Studio. Other recipients included Lilyan Alexander, 17, who has a form of Muscular Dystrophy, Luke Gaunt, 16, who has a diagnosis of Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (ACC), and Sienna Lister, 11, who has a diagnosis of Sjorge-Larsson syndrome which means she has spasticity in her lower limbs.
For each of these children – as well as their families – the wheelchairs are life-changing. For Luke, it means he can now join the family on outings that include uneven surfaces such as gravel and stony tracks. He can also adjust the height of his chair to see over fences and join his family at restaurant tables. Lilyan, who like the twins is at a pivotal moment and about to go to higher education, needs help to go up and down stairs or inclines and can walk very short distances which makes her exhausted. Her new wheelchair means she will no longer have to rely on her friends to help her around school or university. Sienna’s new lightweight manual chair will enable her to get around by herself, without having to rely on people to push her because she is tired out.
‘We had the opportunity to meet these five strong and incredibly inspiring children, who continually adapt to a world in that can be inaccessible. Meeting them allowed us to understand more about the importance of these chairs in reducing barriers,’ explains Krishna Hathi, Head of Charity Initiatives at AG. ‘As a Group we want to make a difference. Giving money is important but for charities such as CHIPS it is about so much more than that. The work that goes on behind the scenes to understand the needs and ambitions of these children is a huge part of them receiving these wheelchairs. We are proud to be able to donate and help CHIPS continue its amazing work.’
CHIPS and the gambling industry
CHIPS was founded on behalf of the UK gambling industry with a simple aim: to raise funds to buy specially powered wheelchairs for youngsters with varying disabilities. The charity funds wheelchairs that the NHS cannot or will not provide, and that families cannot afford to buy without great difficulty. It has successfully been doing this since the 1990’s when a single wheelchair cost around £1,800 – today a single chair can cost £17,500.
It is a labour of love for Linda who, together with the other charity trustees, doesn’t take any form of payment for running the charity. ‘To see their faces when they get their chairs and realise they can get to the bottom of the garden on their own is an incredible experience,’ explains Linda. ‘And this – this is why we do it,’ she says gesturing at the line of five wheelchairs moving to the restaurant terrace for a group photograph to celebrate the AG donation. ‘We are grateful to AG for giving us this money. It came out of the blue.’
AG has a longstanding relationship with CHIPS through Les Ambassadeurs Club, the casino which is part of the Group. CHIPS was born from an association with the gambling industry; Linda’s husband used to own a company that manufactured gaming equipment. They decided that an annual golf day, where they took people from the industry, could be used to raise money for charity. It was so successful that the charity has continued many years after Linda’s husband sold his business. ‘One of the reasons our donors have stayed loyal is because they know where every penny goes. It isn’t overheads or staff – we don’t charge for our services. Every single penny goes where it is supposed to go.’