Little smiler Lillie Mansell has inspired a £50,000 fundraising quest to help her walk for the first time.
The two-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, has already defied expectations after doctors said she would never talk, crawl or even hold her head up independently.
Now big-hearted fundraisers in her Sheffield community have rallied round to raise cash so she can have pioneering surgery in America which will hopefully let Lillie take her first steps.
Already around £20,000 has been collected to fund the selective dorsal rhizotomy operation, a neurosurgical procedure which cuts sensory nerve fibres from the muscles and into the spinal cord to loosen muscles.
Mum Keighly, of Lyndsay Avenue, Parson Cross, said: “It would mean so much to see Lillie walk.
“It would give her that bit more independence because she crawls but she can’t outside, so she is always confined to a chair.
“Walking would make life so much easier for her - you can tell she wants to walk and it’s heartbreaking.
“This would mean the world to us.”
When Lillie was born at Sheffield’s Jessop Wing, she wasn’t breathing, affecting the oxygen to her brain.
She spent time in intensive care and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after an MRI scan.
Lillie has had various treatments and therapies to help her development including a recent spell in Scotland with a sports injury expert which has helped her to clap her hands for the very first time.
While the gruelling rhizotomy - to be undertaken by a surgeon in St Louis – is available on the NHS, Lillie does not meet the strict criteria needed to have it in the UK.
Keighly, aged 26, added: “Lillie has done really well so far - she just gets on with life.
“We were told she wouldn’t eat, talk or walk, wouldn’t even be able to hold her head up. She does all of that, the only thing she can’t do is walk, and that is where the operation comes in.
“People have been so generous to help out with the fundraising, there are a lot of people in the community helping us out.
“We wrote to a lot of big companies asking for help and heard nothing back, but there are people in the area who would give their last penny.
“It has been quite overwhelming.”
The next events for Lillie’s appeal include Rebel Pro wrestling holding an event at Philadelphia Club, Martin Street, Upperthorpe, at 7.30pm tonight. Adults pay £7 and children £3.50 on the door.
On June 15 the Paces campus on Pack Horse Lane, High Green, is hosting a Lillie’s Birthday Bonanza with craft stalls, cheerleading, wheelchair dancing and more from 11am.
Visit www.lillieswishtowalk.com for more events and details of how to donate.