English impressionist and comedian Jon Culshaw, presented a bespoke Variety Sunshine Coach to the pupils of Swiss Cottage School in North West London. The specially designed vehicle, which has been sponsored by The Bernice Cowen Charitable Trust, will offer the children the opportunity to experience the outside world in a safe and secure way, through a number of trips and activities.

The coach will be used every school day and during afterschool and holiday clubs.

Swiss Cottage School Development & Research Centre provides an outstanding learning environment for 240 children aged from 2 to 19 with a wide range of special education needs and disabilities (SEND), including those with profound and multiple learning difficulties and those on the Autistic Spectrum Continuum.

Jon Culshaw commented:

“I’m incredibly honoured to present this Sunshine Coach to the remarkable pupils of Swiss Cottage. It’s a pleasure to see how a donation of this kind can make such a difference. The work of Variety, the Children’s Charity, and the kindness of The Bernice Cowen Charitable Trust has ensured that these children can continue to enjoy regular extra-curricular activities.”

Rated “outstanding” by Ofsted in all five of its inspections – one of only eleven schools in the country to achieve that consistency – Swiss Cottage has received a host of awards and is led by Kay Bedford, who was awarded an OBE in 2012, in recognition of her tireless commitment and contribution to the Swiss Cottage School community.

Kay Bedford, Principal, commented:

“We are truly thankful for the donation of the specialised Sunshine Coach from Variety and The Bernice Cowen Charitable Trust. This donation means a great deal to the children of the school. The Coach will enable them to live an enriched life, with opportunities to join in and experience activities which were previously inaccessible.”

Martin Leigh – Bernice Cowen’s brother, commented:

“Bernice Cowen was an inspirational Grandma, who was dedicated to her family. She was a qualified nursery nurse and taught PE at Holland House Primary school in Edgware. In addition, Bernice was an LTA tennis coach and enjoyed running tennis courses and summer camps, where she taught many hundreds of boys and girls to play tennis. Sadly, she passed away in her prime at the age of 57, having battled against cancer for 9 years. She never complained, despite having four operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but she did ask to be remembered. The day after Bernice died, The Bernice Cowen Charitable Trust was formed to follow her wishes and to raise money for causes close to her heart. So far, the charity has raised in excess of £120,000.

The money has been used to assist cancer charities and to purchase two Sunshine Coaches in her name and her own livery. Bernice grew up in North West London and was always associated with helping young children, so when we were approached by Variety, it was an easy decision to confirm our help. On Bernice’s behalf, the committee is always looking at ways to improve young people’s lives and we are proud to be associated with Swiss Cottage School.”

Jason Lewis, Variety’s Chief Barker said:

“Since 1962, we have donated over 5,300 Sunshine Coaches – that’s more than 100 a year. Variety’s specialist minibuses ensure that children can interact with the world around them and experience a fun, entertaining and educational environment, whilst ensuring they are transported as safely as possible. With the support of organisations like The Bernice Cowen Charitable Trust, Variety can continue to highlight that being disabled or disadvantaged need not be a barrier to getting the most out of life.”