YOUNGSTERS at a special needs school in York are reaping the benefits of a new £40,000 minibus – thanks to the fundraising efforts of big-hearted chocolate workers.

Hundreds of staff at the Nestlé factory in York worked tirelessly to raise the cash through a variety of events, including sponsored slims, a summer fun day, an auction and market stalls.

Their money paid for a new minibus for Hob Moor Oaks School, in Acomb, where pupils have a wide spectrum of special needs, including autism and physical disabilities.

The 17-seater minibus, which is adapted for wheelchairs, means the pupils are able to go on day excursions in comfort.

Pat Nicholson, business manager at Hob Moor Oaks, said: “When Nestlé got in touch us with us to ask us if we wanted a new minibus, we jumped at the chance.

“We had three minibuses, but three quite old minibuses, and we were absolutely delighted.

“It’s a 17-seater bus with a tail lift, which means it has a special platform that goes down for wheelchairs.

“You can also move the seats inside the minibus and fasten the wheelchairs in with clamps, so we don’t have to keep lifting the children in and out of the chairs all the time.

“It’s terrific. We used to have to take two minibuses out on day trips, but because this one has more space for wheelchairs, we only have to take one.”

Nestlé embarked on the fundraising challenge through the Variety Club Children’s Charity.

Sarah Edwards, newly appointed assistant head teacher at the school, said: “It takes a long time for a small school like Hob Moor Oaks to save up for a minibus like this. We are therefore so grateful that Nestlé and the Variety Club have made it possible for us to have such a fantastic new vehicle.”

Paul Grimwood, managing director of Nestlé Confectionery (UK), said: “We are thrilled to be able to fund another Variety Club Sunshine Coach.

“The Variety Club does a fantastic job of helping disadvantaged and disabled children.”