A FOOTBALL club manager has come forward to help a playgroup left devastated after their newly-opened garden was targeted by vandals.
Youngsters and staff at Eastbourne Playgroup, based Darlington’s Eastbourne Sports Complex, were distraught after vandals trashed the children’s seesaws and ruined colourful tree decorations created by the toddlers.
Newly-installed solar lights were also ripped out and destroyed, and a number of educational posters and bunting tied to the playgroup’s security fence were also targeted.
After reading in The Northern Echo about the incident, Quakers manager, Martin Gray, donated £500 to the playgroup to cover the costs of replacing the broken equipment.
Mr Gray, who donated the money on behalf of his football academy, which is also based at the complex, said: “I was disgusted when I saw what had happened, it was just mindless.
“My office is next to the garden and when we saw it in the paper as well we wanted to help them out financially to help them replace the equipment in time for the good weather.
“Having children myself I know how important nurseries like this are for their education.”
The money will go towards replacing the broken seesaws, and investing in more educational posters and displays for the children.
The playgroup, which has been running for more than 20 years, moved to the complex earlier this year and is the first time the group has had a garden.
Since the incident, Darlington Borough Council has also offered to install security lighting in the garden, and a parent arranged for Bob the Builder to visit the youngsters through Darlington company, Meet My Mascot.
Playgroup manager Gail Wilkinson said: “It is just wonderful. We are not rich, and we do not have a fabulous amount of money - we have a small number of staff and our funds come from parents and funded children.
“We also do fundraising events to raise money for things like paint for the children, so to have this happen is wonderful.
“We never expected this much support, it has just been brilliant.
“Hopefully the security lighting will act as a deterrent for vandalism in the future, and it means we are free to go ahead and replace the equipment without worrying that it might happen again.”
It is thought the vandals struck overnight on Sunday (March 16) and Durham Police are appealing for any witnesses to call 101.