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Romford Recorder raises £50,000 following Fundraise on the First campaign

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Twelve months of sponsored challenges, quirky fundraisers and community spirit have paid off to give the Romford Recorder’s Fundraise on the First campaign a festive finale to remember.

Thanks to the generosity of readers, the campaign (supporting Hornchurch charity First Step) has finished with a brilliant £50,000, which will go towards the care of youngsters with special needs and disabilities.

Last month, staff hosted their final event, a Christmas jumper day, with those taking part including schools, shopping centres and community groups.

The day raised more than £700, with Drapers’ Academy and Drapers’ Brookside Junior School, both in Harold Hill, donating an incredible £500.

Led by reporter Beth Wyatt, who worked alongside news editor Emma Lake and editor Chris Carter, Fundraise on the First launched back in January with the story of seven-year-old Katie Davies.

Katie has Down’s syndrome and her mum Laura was urged by doctors when 33 weeks pregnant to abort her baby. But she refused and has since watched her daughter grow into a vivacious young girl, who even took her first steps at the charity.

Since January 2015, a huge range of fundraisers have been held in aid of Fundraise on the First, including the Nights on Broadway show at the Brookside Theatre, Romford Shopping Hall’s attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gathering of princesses, quizzes hosted by the Recorder and First Step and ‘80s and ‘90s “dress-backs” to celebrate First Step’s 27th birthday back in October.

A number of people have also taken on endurance challenges, including skydives and sponsored swims and runs.

Five Recorder staff took on a 10k run in Regent’s Park in July, while reporter Harriet Orrell and her Hampstead Ladies rugby club teammates completed a Spartan Sprint, a 5k race which saw them tackle obstacles, throw spears and climb up ropes.

But Fundraise on the First has not only been about raising much-needed funds for the charity, which requires more than £500,000 a year to survive. The Recorder has also highlighted the experiences of the families who receive its vital care. One interview was with Debbie Woods, whose family was one of six to originally help form First Step in 1988.

Youngsters whose smiles have beamed off our pages have included Charlie Hood, seven, who has autism and was helped at First Step through activities such as music therapy, and Jasmine Theodorou, four, who has cerebral palsy.

Recorder reporters have also sat in on sessions at the charity, such as family sessions and play sessions.

Mark Halls, chief executive of First Step, said: “We are so grateful to the Recorder team for their commitment to Fundraise on the First.

“They have really embraced working with us and have helped us raise much-needed funds and awareness, encouraging fundraising from groups and businesses across Havering.

“Many people hadn’t heard of us before.

“The coming 12 months are going to be among the most challenging that First Step has ever had, with the constraints that are coming in on funding from statutory sources.

“And as more children come into the borough, there will be an increase in need and we have got to see a significant increase in fundraising.

“What the Recorder has built for us here will help us do this.

“I would like to thank readers so much for their generosity.”

© Archant Ltd 2013