Sheffield mum raises money to give her disabled son the gift of a voice

A Burngreave mother is fundraising for a communication device to give her disabled son the gift of a voice.

Monday, 15th February 2021, 1:48 pm

Ellen Thomas, aged 35, is trying to raise £4,000 towards an Eye Gaze device for her son Leonidas, aged 13, who suffers with severe mental and physical disabilities.

Leonidas’ conditions have limited his speech development, and he struggles to convey his wants and needs, or talk to younger brothers Naffel, aged nine, and De-Andre, aged two.

This device would, for the first time in his life, give Leonidas the ability to communicate fully with his family.

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Ellen Thomas and Sam Sheedy pictured with Leonidas, Naffel, and De-Andre

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Ellen said: “What bothers me is that sometimes we just don’t know what Leonidas wants, but this will give him a voice to express his needs clearly, without us playing a guessing game. He is very close with his brothers and they do talk in their own way, but for Leonidas to be able to communicate properly with them would be an amazing moment for me.”

Leonidas was born with both spina bifida and hydrocephalus - an accumulation of spinal fluid within the brain. Only eight hours after his birth, Leonidas was undergoing major surgery, and at five weeks old he suffered a brain haemorrhage. He was placed onto life support, and doctors recommended end of life care, but Ellen ignored this advice. Incredibly, Leonidas pulled through, but the haemorrhage left him with epilepsy and cerebral palsy, which has impeded his speech significantly.

Leonidas still loves being around people, attending the Sheffield Boxing Centre with his stepdad Sam Sheedy, aged 32, a former Commonwealth Middleweight Champion. However, the Eye Gaze device would enable Leonidas to socialise independently. He would be able to use his eyes to control the device, selecting symbols which would then string together sentences.

Ellen and Leonidas

The family have already raised £1,400 through raffles, bake sales and a crowdfunder at

Although there is still some way to go to reach their target, Ellen has been touched by people’s generosity.

She said: “It is nervewracking to ask strangers for help, especially with what is going on in the world.Leonidas isn’t the only child that needs help, but the kindness from people has been amazing.”

All smiles

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Family day out
Ghoulish family fun
Ellen and her boys
Leonidas with his boxing friends