The Yard

Families Await Re-Opening of Disabled Children’s Play Centre

A Dundee drop-in centre, providing play services for disabled children, young people and their families, is thanking the local community for its festive generosity.

Although currently closed due to COVID, The Yard, which opened in 2015, operates from temporary, shared premises at Rainbow House, Drumlanrig Place, offering creative and adventurous play for children and their siblings.

On the approach to Christmas, The Yard raised £14,000 across its services in Dundee, Kirkcaldy and Edinburgh, instead of a typical £4,000.

For just a few pounds, families could order a personalised video or letter for their child from Santa.  The video also featured ‘Signalong’ or ‘Makaton’, signing used by people with additional speech, language and communication needs. As well as donations from its families, The Yard also received numerous standalone donations from the general public.


The Yard Dundee

The Yard in more typical times


Gill Thomson, Service Development Manager said, “Christmas was undoubtedly very different last year, particularly for children who could normally enjoy parties and grotto visits.  However, fundraising was also very different, with no supermarket, school fete or church collections.  However, thanks to the generosity of our local community, we can be there for disabled children and their families as we welcome this new year.  For now, that needs to be online support but we can’t wait to welcome families back into our centres in the weeks ahead.”

One of the Dundee families looking forward to restrictions being lifted is Nicola, Ross and Leo Donnelly.  Leo (3), who was born at 26 weeks, has cerebral palsy and visual impairment. Having become regulars at The Yard last year, Nicola was already starting to see changes in her son.

Nicola explained, “We enjoyed all of the usual baby and toddler activities with Leo like baby sensory, soft play and swimming but, as he grew, so did the gap between him and his peers. We realised he needed more care but also an environment where he could be himself, enjoy a safe space and just thrive.


Leo Donnelly


“The first thing that struck me about The Yard was how welcoming and enthusiastic the staff were. Beyond an initial application form, we didn’t have to explain anything or download our story, which can be so hard for families to do again and again. We were accepted from the word ‘go’.  The staff really know how to get the best out of Leo and tell us he’s making real progress, becoming bolder and trying new things, things he might not do at home.

“From a parent’s perspective, we sometimes exhale when we walk in the door. It’s just a relief to know that Leo can be Leo there and, similarly, if my husband or I are having a low day, it doesn’t matter. That environment is crucial when you have a child with additional needs. As a working mum, it’s also fantastic that The Yard was open at weekends – we simply can’t wait to return!”

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The Yard is an award-winning charity, running adventure play services for disabled children, young people and their families in the east of Scotland. It offers creative, adventurous indoor and outdoor play experiences in a well-supported environment. It provides care, support, and opportunities for fun and friendship. Besides informal respite, meeting other parents who face similar challenges lets them build a network of support and understanding that helps ease the difficulties they face. The flagship Edinburgh centre was refurbished by DIY SOS The Big Build in 2012. The Yard Dundee opened in 2015, followed by The Yard Fife in 2016.

The Yard was awarded the Nancy Ovens Positive Support for Play Award 2016 and the Herald Society Award for Improving Young People’s Lives in 2019. Celine Sinclair, Chief Executive of The Yard, was awarded Leading Light at Scottish Charity Awards 2017, Director of the Year at Edinburgh Chamber Business Awards 2018 and Director of the Year – Small Business at IoD Scotland Director of the Year Awards 2018.