“I LOVE this place,” admits Louise Simonian.
“There are many times that I see something happen which will bring a lump to my throat,” said the manager of Funky World, which offers a perfect retreat for parents and toddlers alike.
But what is so good about this Headland venue?
“There are children who come in and are really shy, but we see them come out of their shell,” said Louise.
“There are children with autism who have expressed emotion for the first time while they are here.”
In other words, many types of people link in to this gem and come out the better for it.
A CIC is a company with a difference. It can only use any profits it makes to benefit the community.
Funky World is already making its mark on the Headland.
It has a soft play area with a ball pool, tunnels, slides and a sensory cave. Nearby is a bistro so that parents and carers can watch all the fun.
“Parents tell us it is the best play area in town,” said Louise.
It has an interactive sensory studio with giant colour-changing bubble tubes, fibre optics, and lights which are activated by touch and voice.
“It is used by groups of people including adults with disabilities,” said Louise.
“And families with little babies use it. Babies love that room because of all the lights.”
And it also has a large cinema screen.
The Funky World concept was born in September 2006, and talks began by December the same year to turn the dream into reality.
Management consulted with parents, support groups and local schools throughout Hartlepool and the Tees Valley to identify what services it should offer.
By the next Spring, the search for the ideal base got under way. It ended at a former Salvation Army building which is where it has stayed ever since it opened in August 2009.
Now, it is so much more than just a play centre.
It can be a meeting place for firms wanting a training room. It’s a great venue for children’s birthday parties.
It runs a holiday playscheme for children with disabilities and their siblings, has its own parent and toddler group, has 2,000 members; and has received 34,000 visits to the centre.
Sixteen North East groups access its services and it has already hosted 365 birthday parties for children in its short lifetime.
Six paid staff and a loyal team of 15 volunteers are its backbone.
But so are the public it serves.
Louise admitted: “It is such a wonderful feeling to see children smiling and having fun.”
To contact Funky World, telephone 01429 860700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org