THEY’VE done it!
The parents of brave little Ollie Saxton have raised enough money to send him to America for an operation to help him walk for the first time.
Two weeks ago The Star revealed that Rachel Tinsley and her husband Russell Saxton were in a race against time to pay a £27,000 hospital bill for their three-year-old, who has cerebral palsy.
But since the story was published the family from Intake, Sheffield, have received more than £10,000 of donations - and now have enough to secure a place for Ollie at the St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri in January.
“It’s been amazing,” said Rachel, aged 33, a fitness instructor at Ponds Forge sports centre.
“We now have about £30,000, which is enough for the operation. It’s fantastic news, and means we can give Ollie the opportunity of a lifetime.
“Since that front page story in The Star the donations have been flying in. Someone posted a link to our webpage on a football website as well, and it went crazy, with people constantly making donations of £20 or £50.
“Everyone has been so generous.”
Although Rachel and Russell now have sufficient funds to book the operation, they still need to raise another £25,000 for flights, aftercare, physiotherapy and other costs.
“We need to be over in America for four weeks so there are some high costs involved,” said Rachel, who is also mum to Riegan, 10, and Evie, five.
“We’ve still got a long way to go, but at least we know the operation will happen.”
Ollie was 18 months old before he was officially diagnosed with spastic diplegia - a form of cerebral palsy which causes stiffness in the spine.
It means that even now, aged three, Ollie cannot walk properly by himself. Instead he has to crawl.
Ollie’s parents have been told if he does not have the operation he will never be able to walk unaided, so the procedure is a one-off chance to change his life.
The operation, called selective dorsal rhizotomy, involves cutting some of the nerves in his spine to reduce stiffness.
That will be followed by intense physiotherapy in America to build muscle strength, which will also continue back home in Sheffield.
Rachel, Russell and their friends and family have already completed a variety of fundraising events in a bid to meet the £55,000 total cost of the procedure, travel, and aftercare.
But, with £25,000 still to raise, they have a number of events planned for a final push before they fly to America in January.
Musician Craig Head has written a Christmas single called Pull My Cracker, available on iTunes, with funds going to the appeal. And tomorrow night Ponds Forge is hosting a Motown night, with live music and a meal from 7.30pm. Tickets cost £10 - call 07598 435 452.
Donate online at www.justgiving.com/sendollietostlouis or call Caudwell Children’s charity on 01782 600 114.