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The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) has been benefitting from funds raised by the Eyes Alight for over six years now and this year money was allocated to all BIRT services to make Christmas particular special for the people they support.

The appeal was set up by Trust Ambassador Izzy Judd and her family. Izzy's brother, Rupert, lives in Kent House, having been seriously injured in a road accident in 1997.

The appeal has raised nearly £200,000 and has been by numerous people including Izzy’s husband, Harry and his McFly bandmates, and organisations such as The Huw Thatcher Trust and Harpenden Lions.

So far, through the money raised by the Eyes Alight Appeal, we have been able to achieve many things which have made our service users "Eyes Alight," including purchasing IT equipment such as iPads and laptops, and funding items to help people pursue their passions. For example, a digital piano and art equipment.

This Christmas all 15 services enjoyed a wide variety of celebrations. Here is just a selection:

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The Eyes Alight appeal donations have also been paving the way for fun at BIRT centre Thomas Edward Mitton (TEM) House in Milton Keynes. The place felt less like a centre and more like Noah’s Ark when residents there were visited by Teaching Talons and a menagerie of wildlife recently. Service users and staff were introduced to and were able to touch and hold giant cockroaches, a giant African land snail, a dragon (lizard), rats, guinea pigs and hedgehogs. There was even an adorable performing dog that put on a show for the group. It looks like it was an interesting experience for everyone.

One of the service user’s at TEM went to a flight simulator experience with money raised by the Eyes Alight appeal and had a really good time, although he did comment that he would rather it was a helicopter than a Boeing 737. Apparently he was a natural, making a perfect landing at Kuala Lumpur airport.

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BIRT centre Chalkdown House in Swindon have been using the donations from the Eyes Alight fundraising appeal, to engage service users in some wonderful Christmas activities. From pantomime tickets for a service user, his wife and children, to dinner out at a restaurant, to paying for travel and lunch for a service user and staff member’s day trip to Bath so he could purchase some Christmas presents.

A large proportion of the funds have gone towards a trip to Winter Wonderland, with service users allocated a certain amount each to buy snacks, extra rides and memorabilia. The group enjoyed a festive coach trip to Hyde Park last week, and were extremely grateful when the coach company’s owner Roger called to say he would kindly reimburse the centre for the journey. The Christmas spirit couldn’t even be dampened by the London traffic, with service user Lucky commenting that: “It was a good day out. It was worth the long coach journey to get there."

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The team at York House felt that their service users deserved something really special and a touch of luxury this Christmas time.

The York House Christmas party, funded by donations from the Eyes Alight appeal, was held on Wednesday 14th December at The Monkbar Hotel in York, and was attended by service users and staff. This consisted of a two course meal, disco, and obligatory festive t-shirt/jumper wearing.

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On Sunday 11th of December, men and women from BIRT centre Redford Court in Liverpool participated in a Carol singing and Thanksgiving service at St. Nicholas Parish Church.

Service users also enjoyed themselves the following day as they visited a restaurant for a Christmas meal. Other activities at the service have included a performance of Cinderella by a touring group of actors, as well as a Snow White pantomime at Liverpool Empire theatre and the Lord Mayor’s Christmas carol concert in St. George’s Hall. A group also went out for a Christmas jumper themed breakfast, which made a nice change from eating it at the centre.

Many of the activities carried out were funded by the Eyes Alight appeal money, and Michael Boardman said: “I just want to thank Eyes Alight, Izzy Judd and the amazing fundraisers for all their hard work in raising money for BIRT service users. This money enables service users to socialise more and I am so proud to be able to distribute this money at Redford Court and make their lives happier.”

The Eyes Alight money has also helped purchase new relaxation equipment for the sensory room at Redford Court, which is a fantastic start to the New Year following a fabulously festive sounding end to this one.