A North East charity founder honoured with an invitation to the Queen’s funeral has described being “blown away’ by the experience.

Lynn McManus of North Shields, who was the only member of the public from the region to be invited to the State event, said: “It was absolutely breathtakingly magnificent - the atmosphere, the pageantry, all the dignitaries and all the best of the armed forces on parade.

“And then of course there was the Royal family. It was such an honour to be there.

“I kept saying to the woman sitting next to me ‘I just can’t believe I am sitting here’. It was just magnificent. Quite surreal."

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Mrs McManus who adopted five children with disabilities was one of 200 guests who were recognised in the Queen’s Jubilee Honours.

The Northern Echo: Pathways 4 All founder Lynn McManus at the Queen's funeral Picture: LYNN MCMANUS Pathways 4 All founder Lynn McManus at the Queen's funeral Picture: LYNN MCMANUS (Image: Picture: LYNN MCMANUS)

The mother, who was awarded the MBE, founded Pathways 4 All and the Tim Lamb Children's Centre at the Rising Sun Country Park, in Benton, which helps almost 2,000 families.

She joined 2,000 guests at Westminster Abbey ceremony, including about 500 world leaders and dignitaries, as well as family and friends.

The Northern Echo: Picture: PAPicture: PA (Image: Picture: PA)

Mrs McManus said: “One of the most moving parts was when the digniteries came in.

"We had been sitting around since 8.30am, when all of a sudden the music stopped and they started to parade down. It was just unbelievable.

"They did it in different orders. There were the heads of state, then the military, prime ministers, and the Royal family.

"They were bringing people in at three entrances so we saw everything from where we were sitting. 

"I kept saying this is surreal. I am sitting here watching this.

"It was amazing you couldn’t hear a pin drop. I was so proud to be representing the charity there."

The Northern Echo: Picture: PAPicture: PA (Image: Picture: PA)

She added: "I didn't recognise everybody. Catherine is absolutely beautiful.

"Her parents were there too – I did recognised them.

"Prince Charles was obviously very solemn. They (the Royal family) all held it together really well.

"After the funeral service I was behind Princess Di's brother (the Earl of Spencer) as I l left Westminster Abbey."

In the past, Mrs McManus has attended one of the Queen's garden parties, and as well as her MBE she also received a specially-designed pin from Camilla, Queen Consort, given to about 500 people by the Royal Voluntary Service.

She has volunteered much of her spare time, alongside raising ten children and being a loving grandmother of seven.

Her five youngest children are all adopted and have a range of additional needs and disabilities.

Her motivation for starting the charity followed a negative experience at a soft play centre, when Lynn was instructed to leave following a behaviour incident involving her daughter Millie, who has ADHD, learning disabilities and a hearing impairment.

Frustrated by the lack of play opportunities for disabled children, Mrs McManus started a community youth group in 2008 which evolved into a registered charitable organisation in 2010.

Her dream was to open a specialist activity centre where disabled children and their families could come without fear of judgement or ridicule.

In 2012 Pathways 4 All opened the doors to the Tim Lamb Children’s Centre, offering sensory play facilities to around 60 Tyneside families with disabled children.

Ten years on, the centre now has over 1,000 families visiting us regularly from across the region. We also open our facilities to several local special schools and other disabled children’s charities too.

Mrs McManus continues to take an active voluntary role in both the day to day running of the charity and in the fundraising for it.

Over the past 10 years, she has organised 10 Charity Balls and raised in excess of £1.5 million, this has enabled the charity to improve the facilities on offer at the Tim Lamb Centre and continue to provide a lifeline to families.

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