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Charity secures venue to be state-of-the-art leisure centre for disabled children and young people

Gympanzees, a Bristol-based multi-award-winning charity, has secured £2.2m of lending from Triodos Bank UK to help purchase a site near Aust in South Gloucestershire.

The site will be turned into a unique, purpose-built Gympanzees centre, which will provide disabled children, young people, and their families with a safe space to exercise, have fun and socialise with others. The centre will be the first of its kind in the UK and will welcome over 200,000 visitors each year. 

With plans to open the doors to families from 2026, the centre will be designed to cater for children and young people with the most severe physical disabilities, who require support for all their needs and movements, through to those with autism and ADHD who can be incredibly active.   

The site, which is an old motorway services and easily accessible for families in the South West and Wales, will be the first permanent home for Gympanzees. Until now, it has been running events in the Easter and summer holidays in special schools. These are smaller ‘pop-up’ versions of the proposed centre and have been running for five years with over 21,000 visitors welcomed in 130 days.

Stephanie Wheen, CEO and Founder of Gympanzees, said: “We have achieved this mammoth first step in fundraising and purchased the building, now we need to fit it out and deliver this much-needed centre for disabled children and their families.”  

John Sharpe, business banking relationship manager at Triodos Bank UK, added: “We’re pleased to play a pivotal part in this important next chapter for Gympanzees. Our finance always aims to have a positive impact and we can see what a difference this permanent centre will make to the lives of young people with disabilities and their families.”  

As well as the lending from Triodos, the £3.1 million site was purchased with support from The Nisbet Trust, Rockcliffe Charitable Trust, The Sunrise Foundation and individual gifts. Gympanzees were also donated over £200k of pro bono work to secure the site by Stride Treglown, BOM IT Solutions, Osborne Clarke, Northen QS, JLL, Hydrock and Burston Cooke. 

Gympanzees is launching the next part of its fundraising appeal to so it can completely refurbish and fit out the newly acquired building with 10 different specialist exercise and activity rooms and spaces, with therapy rooms, exercise studios and a community cafe. The ‘Project Home’ appeal aims to raise £10.8 million through a multi-phased fundraising campaign.

Emma, mother of Isabella, explained: “Gympanzees has been a lifeline for our family.Isabella was deprived of oxygen at birth. She is now ten years old and has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Her mobility is limited; she is a full-time wheelchair user with emerging independent sitting. As she has got older, organising a day trip, or simply going to the local park has become challenging. 

“Gympanzees has provided carefully planned sessions that enable us to meet other families in similar situations and make new friends. She never wants the fun to end and is heartbroken at the end of every session. It was clear that every aspect of the programme had been carefully considered to meet every person’s needs. It’s not an exaggeration to say that their support has changed our family’s life”. 

To find out more about Project Home, please visit: gympanzees.org/appeal