The Orange Order’s Belfast County Grand Master has leant his support to a charity for children with cerebral palsy and motor disorders.
George Chittick and fellow Orangeman Craig Briers,who has cerebral palsy, regularly attend parades and meetings at the Twaddell camp in north Belfast.
Last week they visited the Buddy Bear School in Dungannon to see how teachers educate pupils with cerebral palsy and other motor disorders.
They are now preparing to start up a ballot over the Twelfth period with the prize of a large signed painting of Dan Winters cottage - in a bid to raise funds for the school, which does not receive Government funding.
Brendan McConville from Buddy Bear Trust arranged the meeting so the Grand Master could sign the painting.
The painting has also been signed by the Orange Order’s Grand Master, Grand Mistress and Hilda Winters, a descendant of Dan Winter and many Northern Ireland politicians.
Mr Chittick said: “I have gone into the classrooms to see the work that is being done here. Children that were being put on the scrapheap are now able to walk, talk and do things that they were told they couldn’t do and it is all down to the staff and to Brendan here. They deserve all the support we can give to them. The parents who are very caring also deserve support and I hope they get funding. I will push my members to remember Buddy Bear school in Dungannon.
“We will be putting it up for a ballot and hope to raise plenty of money for the school over the 12th period.
“What I saw here was really revealing to me.”
Fellow 29-year-old Orange Order member, Craig Briers from Glencairn said: “I didn’t get the help that I deserved because I suffer from cerebral palsy, but whatever I can do with my heart and vigour and determination I will fund raise for Buddy Bear.
“What I saw here this morning from the parents to the teachers was amazing.”
A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “As an Independent School, the Buddy Bear School does not receive funding from the Department of Education (DE). DE has, however, approved the Buddy Bear School under Article 26 of the Education (NI) Order 1996 as suitable for the admission of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN).
Therefore under Article 26, where an Education and Library Board (ELB) decides as a result of a statutory assessment to place a child in the Buddy Bear School, it will pay the child’s fees in regard to attendance and may pay fees in relation to boarding and transport. In this context, DE is providing a tangible level of support to the school.”