IT is a charity which has changed the lives of hundreds of Hampshire’s severely disabled children and adults, and that nine months ago found itself faced with a major crisis.

The Rainbow Centre stood on the brink of closure within weeks unless it could find £150,000 after funding reached desperate levels.

But now it is celebrating its 25th anniversary year after the public answered its call for help.

The Fareham charity, which has helped more than 300 children in that time, is marking the year in style with a 12-month series of celebrations and activities.

Set up in 1990, the Rainbow Centre, in Palmerston Drive, helps children and adults across the south with cerebral palsy, as well as adults with MS, Parkinson’s and those recovering from a stroke or head injury.

But it all started from humble beginnings in the living room of founder Helen Somerset How in March of that year.

It gained official charity status in June and has gone on to help 305 children and 80 adults, many of whom have been going to the centre for years.

There they learn conductive education, a system which develops new neural pathways to undamaged parts of the brain, helping someone to master control of their core muscles, limbs and movements.

In 2007 the centre extended treatment to adults.

But last March the centre told the Daily Echo how it could be forced to close in just four weeks if it could not raise £150,000.

Although staff at the centre had been raising £47,500 each month to keep it going, it told how it had suffered in the aftermath of the recession, leaving it with no cash reserves, and more was needed in the immediate short term before fundraising initiatives in the pipeline could produce results.

Centre director Lara Bull told then how the facility had been living hand to mouth for the past 18 months, with three board members having to lend the charity money to pay staff wages.

Conductive education is not recognised by the NHS and therefore it receives no funding.

But families told how it had given them hope.

One family told how the service had helped their five-year-old son say his first words and take his first steps and how its closure would have a devastating impact.

Haanagh Smith’s son Reuben was born prematurely and has quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His family were told he was unlikely to be able to do anything for himself or be able to speak.

The 36-year-old, from Saffron Close, Whiteley, put Reuben’s remarkable progress down to the Fareham facility.

The public responded and the centre raised a final total of £200,000.

But the public support has not ended there and Ms Bull said donations had continued to be strong throughout the year, which has turned around the fortunes of the centre.

The charity now has a reserve fund of £105,000 – enough to cover the charity for two months.

It needs £12,500 a week to cover costs and at its lowest point the charity was bringing £7,500 – now it has an average weekly income of £17,500.

Since the launch of the appeal 38 per cent of what the charity needs in income is guaranteed to come in.

In addition, demand for the service has continued to grow through raised awareness and the centre hopes to expand its service to the wider community through an outreach programme.

Staff are also looking at a holiday club in the school holidays as Ms Bull said there appeared to be a shortage of such services for disabled children.

Ms Bull said it had been an “unbelievable” turnaround and that the charity was entering this year in a far stronger position financially than it had seen for “quite some time”, though she stressed the importance of continuing support.

“If we can continue as we are, if we can absolutely engage with everyone in our 25th anniversary year, that crisis appeal will be the catalyst for the next 25 years,” she said.

“People knew we were here but we have got a lovely building and people thought ‘they’re OK’ – it made people realise goodness they’re not OK and we can’t take that service for granted.”

Upcoming celebrations include a Burns Night supper on January 30, an open day in June which will feature a ‘silver mile’ made up of pennies, the charity’s 25 themed challenges which include coffee mornings, sponsored slims and skydives, a spring barn dance and an end of year ball.