Special school ‘overwhelmed’ by brand new sensory garden built by tradesmen from across the country

Children, parents and teachers at a special school whose fundraising honesty box was stolen by a callous thief have been left ‘overwhelmed’ after more than 100 builders from across the country teamed up to build them a brand new sensory garden.

The £65,000 sensory garden at Rocklands Special School in Lichfield, Staffordshire, was unveiled today at an open day after volunteers spent three weeks building it entirely free of charge.

Builders and tradesmen flocked to the state special school to help create the garden after monies previously donated for the project were stolen, spending three weeks transforming an unused piece of ground into a state-of-the-art sensory garden.

The unprecedented act of kindness was inspired by Mark Bennett, founder of Tamworth-based

children’s charity Simon’s Heroes, after he read about the theft of an honesty box for the school’s garden on Facebook.

Simon’s Heroes teamed up with charitable organisation Band of Builders and online construction community On the Tools to build the sensory garden for the school, which caters for 110 pupils aged 2-11 years suffering from a number of learning difficulties and disabilities.

Over the course of two weeks, more than 100 tradesmen and volunteers from across the country took part in the project, from landscaping the garden to fitting specialist equipment and laying artificial grass.

Local businesses lent their support, delivering cakes and fish and chips to volunteers on the site, while the project also received the backing of singer Tony Christie, who lives nearby and whose niece attended Rocklands, who visited several times to cheer on those working on the project.

Sandra Swift, headteacher at the Rocklands, said: “We’ve been utterly overwhelmed by what’s happened here. For complete strangers to come in and do this for us and for the children means the world to us.

“We had raised about £9,000 towards a sensory garden, but there is no way we could have achieved what these guys have achieved.

“This won’t just benefit the children who are at Rocklands now, but those who come for years in the future. It’s a real legacy and just goes to show what kindness there is in the world. We can’t thank the volunteers enough.”

Mark Bennett, founder of Tamworth-based charity Simon’s Heroes, which raises money to enhance the lives of children with life limiting illnesses, said: “When I first decided to do something to help the children at Rocklands, I couldn’t have dreamed how amazing this project would turn out to be.

“This was always all about the children and making their lives just that little bit better and we’ve certainly achieved that. Organising this project has been a rollercoaster but I never doubted we’d get there and here we are. Just seeing the smiles on these children’s faces is worth its weight in gold and why we do what we do.”

Most of the work at the Rocklands was carried out by volunteers from Band of Builders, a soon-to-be charity that provides support to help tradesmen in need.

The organisation began when Addam Smith organised the renovation of his friend’s house following his diagnosis with terminal cancer. The project, carried out by builders from across the country, hit national headlines and marked the start of Band of Builders.

Addam said: “When Mark asked us if we could supply a few people to help with his project, we jumped at the chance. He is a fellow tradesmen and the project itself was so inspiring we couldn’t wait to get cracking.

“It’s been a tough few weeks, with all the ups and downs that come with a project of this size, but to see the faces of the children who now have a safe space to play makes it all worthwhile. It’s been an honour and a privilege to be involved.”


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