'Independent' readers give £58,000 to charity appeal

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The Independent Online

The phone calls, rather than the money, were what meant most to the two small charities that benefited from The Independent's Christmas Appeal for the Disabled, which closed yesterday having raised a total of £58,152.

Both charities – Kids, which works for independence for disabled children throughout the UK, and Action on Disability and Development, which does the same with children and adults throughout the Third World – were inundated with calls and letters.

They came every day, from all over the country, according to Sam Brier, the chief executive at Kids. "They came from parents wanting playschemes or help with home learning, wanting help with getting their child into a mainstream school, or just wanting to know how they could get a break, once in a while," he said. Other calls were from people offering help rather than requesting it. And yet what moved him most were the calls from parents who were just expressing relief to have discovered that they were not alone in how they experienced the emotional trauma of coping with a child with disabilities.

"A father from Wakefield, upon reading the article where a group of parents shared their feelings and troubles, rushed into his kitchen and told his wife, 'I told you that there were others like us. I knew we couldn't be the only ones going through these battles'. Others rang to say how glad they were that their experiences had been aired in this way."

Staff at Action on Disability and Development (Add) experienced something similar. Even to many of the charity's supporters, learning exactly what were the real problems for people with disabilities was a revelation. As the director of Add, Barbara Frost, put it: "They knew that disabled children in developing countries often miss out on education and other opportunities, but what The Independent's articles showed was that the biggest problem for disabled people is the prejudice they all face."

The two charities are now working to discover whether there are any benefits to be gained from a collaborative venture. Above all, Mr Brier said, they both wanted to say thanks to Independent readers. Barbara Frost said the appeal would "make a huge difference to the lives of significant numbers of disabled people".

* The auction run as part of The Independent's Christmas appeal was an unusual one. The top crime-writer Ian Rankin offered to name a character in his next novel after the winner. Gavin Simms, an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, won with a bid of £5,000. The author will offer the choice of being a "goodie or a baddie".