Desperate plea to save Banbury Play Bus as £50k appeal deadline looms

The volunteers behind Banbury Play Bus are calling on any individuals or businesses to donate as they have days to raise £50,000 or close down.

The Banbury and District Community Bus Project launched the fundraising appeal in May with a deadline of the end of June to find the cash.

Banbury Play Bus organisers and parents

Banbury Play Bus organisers and parents

Many parents have said how valuable the charity is and the organisers have explained how important it is but so far only £2,000 has been raised.

An emotional project manager, Michelle Pollard, said: "We're not giving up, we're pushing hard this week and next week to do what we can.

"It's all hands on deck at the moment to do the last push to get as much as we can as the trustees say it's got to be £50,000 as we've got to let parents know."

The award-winning Play Bus has provided a free space for kids to have fun for 23 years and typically works with around 4,000 children a year.

Donna Winser and her son Henry on the Play Bus

Donna Winser and her son Henry on the Play Bus

The red double-decker bus goes around north Oxfordshire three days a week giving parents and guardians a respite and support network as well as a novel play space for their child.

Funding cuts meant the trustees had to make the difficult decision that the charity would be closing unless more funds could be found by June 30, but it will continue at least until the end of August.

The charity has been tirelessly lobbying businesses, families and celebrities on social media with the help of consultant Tim Tarby-Donald.

Other than a recent £1,000 donation from a Middleton Cheney family business, they need more pledges to secure the bus' future.

The Banbury Guardian front page appeal to save the Play Bus from May 10

The Banbury Guardian front page appeal to save the Play Bus from May 10

Tim said: "We need people to realise this is real and they are going to be missing out on a fantastic resource and we're doing everything we can to prevent it from happening it's hard."

Parents at the Play Bus' session in Deddington today (Thursday) shared just how much it means to them and how devastating it would be to lose it.

Donna Winser, who's two sons have both enjoyed playing on the bus, said: "For parents that live in rural communities, having the ability to meet other adults is really important.

"Often the only way to meet new people is places like this where you get support and the kids get to play - it's invaluable.

Charlotte Witka and her daughter Constance Broadwood love the bus

Charlotte Witka and her daughter Constance Broadwood love the bus

"It would be awful if they close as there's not a great amount of activities in the village, especially not low cost."

Michelle fears people do not appreciate just how important play is to a child's development and the support network and respite they provide parents is a huge part of it too.

Fellow mum Charlotte Witka said: "Being a new mum is so hard so going to new groups where it's very cliquey is hard and the fact people come back here every week shows it's a lovely place to be."

Michelle admitted the past few weeks have been very tough for her team as there is a lot of uncertainty about their futures but hopes the bus can be saved.

"It's hard for morale of the staff as we have been living hand to mouth for so long so it's gets to a point where we have to make a decision," she said.

"It's quite difficult, whatever happens to the project as I have to see it to the end but it's quite an emotional time."

To donate online, visit www.gofundme.com/BanburyCommunityPlayBus, or app.thegoodexchange.com/project/12176/banbury-district-community-bus-project/banbury-district-community-bus-project.

To get in touch with the team, email bdcbp@btconnect.com, or call Michelle on 01295 273027 or 07557 354763.