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Leo's beginning to roar as UK first gains momentum

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A photo of Leo's Neonatal founder Lottie King and Clare Stewart

A pioneering unit supporting parents and families of premature babies is going from strength to strength.

Leo's Neonatal recently became one of the first good causes to sign up to the Middlesbrough Lottery, with work on its new base set for completion by the end of the year.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston dropped by to give his backing to the project which is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Leo's was set up by Lottie King whose son Leo died not long after he was born prematurely at just 24 weeks.

Leo's twin Oska survived, but spent several years in hospital and still has ongoing health issues at the age of six.

That experience inspired Lottie to create a new centre that she hopes will be a ‘life changer' for parents of sick babies.

An army of volunteers has spent months transforming the former Thirteen housing office at Shelton Court, Thorntree, with finishing touches due to be completed over the coming months.

Leo's is now appealing to local fundraisers, corporate sponsors and businesses to help it raise the final £60,000 needed to complete the building works.

When fully up and running, the centre will be a home away from home for families, providing counselling and activities for parents and children including messy play, neonatal yoga, first aid courses and sensory play in specially designed rooms.

Lottie said: "Our plan was to create the UK's first centre to cater for neonatal health and wellbeing - there is nothing like it anywhere else in the country.

"The work we do is solely focused around helping families who have had babies born early or born sick and the long term implications that has on families.

"As a parent who has experienced the impact of having a baby born prematurely, losing a baby in neonatal care, and the long-term effects this has on the family unit, I know first-hand how needed this centre is.

"We wanted to create a safe haven for families like mine, so that they are never alone, they always have someone or somewhere to turn to which understands what they are going through.

"Being able to set up such a wonderful place within Middlesbrough for my son's legacy is more than I could ever have hoped for in his name."

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "Leo's Neonatal is just amazing, and that's down to the personal touch and experience Lottie brings to the services it offers.

"I'm sure the generosity of the people of Middlesbrough will see it over the line, and it will provide a priceless lifeline for parents, children and families for years to come.

"It will also be a blueprint for other centres like it up and down the country, and that will be a fantastic legacy for Leo."

You can play the Middlesbrough Lottery or register as a good cause by visiting Middlesbrough Lottery website. Prizes of up to £25,000 are available each week with 50p from every £1 ticket going direct to a registered group. Players can select to donate the 50p from their ticket to Leo's or dozens of other charities, community groups and volunteer-led organisations around the town.

The lottery is operated by industry specialists Gatherwell in association with Middlesbrough Council. As well as supporting good causes, 10p from every ticket supports cultural activity in Middlesbrough.

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