Mum Tina Buckland and her son Matthew are proof that Devizes Opportunity Centre continues to touch families’ lives long after children move on to school.

Mrs Buckland, 50, of Parkfields, Devizes, sent a donation for our Give Us A Chance appeal along with a letter that touched everyone at the special needs nursery.

Matthew is now 18 but Mrs Buckland remembers vividly the help she received for her son when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy aged 11 months.

She wrote: “If only the powers that be could really see what a difference the opportunity group makes to us mums and dads struggling with new diagnoses, health worries and day-to-day getting on with coping with these very special little ones.

“I know from experience what a scary place that can be. I’ve shed many tears but so many more smiles on that journey.”

Mrs Buckland and her husband Darryl already had an older son Chris when Matthew was born ten weeks early weighing just 2.5lbs in the Royal United Hospital, Bath.

He spent two months in the special care baby unit. Matthew did not do all the things Chris, now 24, had done as a baby but his diagnosis was still a big shock.

Mrs Buckland said: “The consultant from Bath referred me to the opportunity centre.

"I remember Betty (Newman, manager of the centre) coming to see us at home when I was still quite scared about what the future would hold.

“Having the centre was a real lifeline for me.

"It is so good to have other people to chat to who understand what you are going through.”

Even back then the centre was struggling financially and Mrs Buckland and a few other mothers formed a fundraising committee.

She said: “It gave us something else to focus on apart from worrying about our children.”

Matthew is now a full-time wheelchair user and has some learning difficulties but that did not stop him enjoying his 18th birthday party at the Rowdey Cow near Devizes to the full.

Mrs Buckland said in her letter: “We are blessed to have got Matthew, some how, to 18. He is a very happy boy and loves the life he has and we are so proud.

“Thank you for starting us off for the first difficult few years.”

Matthew, who went to a special unit at Lowbourne Infants School in Melksham when he left the opportunity centre and then on to a unit at Wansdyke Primary School, Devizes, is now a pupil at Larkrise in Trowbridge.

Mrs Buckland said: “We will never forget the help we received.”