‘Spirited’ Alice gets a wheelchair revamp thanks to retired Sheringham GP’s cerebral palsy charity

Fourteen-year-old Alice Marr with her mum, Sarah Dewhurst. Alice, who is a pupil at Sheringham Woodf

Fourteen-year-old Alice Marr with her mum, Sarah Dewhurst. Alice, who is a pupil at Sheringham Woodfields School, has a newly revamped wheelchair thanks to the cerebral palsy charity Love for Leo. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

A charity set up by a retired Norfolk GP after his grandson was born with cerebral palsy has raised more than £10,000 in just two years, so far supporting seven youngsters with disabilities.

Retired Sheringham GP Moss Taylor with his partner Robina Churchyard and Moss's grandson Leo, who wa

Retired Sheringham GP Moss Taylor with his partner Robina Churchyard and Moss's grandson Leo, who was the inspiration behind a charity set up to support youngsters with cerebral palsy. Picture: CHRIS TAYLOR - Credit: Chris Taylor

Love for Leo was founded by former Sheringham Medical Practice partner Moss Taylor and his partner Robina Churchyard to buy specialist equipment for children in Norfolk.

The inspiration behind the charity was Dr Taylor's five-year-old grandson Leo, who was born with cerebral palsy, a condition caused by brain injury before, during or shortly after birth.

The youngster, who lives in Norwich with his parents Andy and May, older brother Zach and twin sister Tiger Lily, has speech difficulties, as well as limited mobility.

'We realised that, unfortunately, not all the expensive equipment needed to improve the quality of life of these children is available through the NHS, nor are some of the surgical treatments, so this is where we hoped Love for Leo would be able to help,' Dr Taylor said.

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Well-known nature writer and former EDP columnist Dr Taylor began donating fees from his talks and bird courses to the charity, also handing over a percentage of sales from his books, while Mrs Churchyard raised cash by selling homemade preserves and garden produce.

After hearing about the couple's efforts, local businesses and individuals stepped forward with offers of help and, as well as donating tombola prizes, friends got together to organise a neighbours' coffee morning, a sponsored run and a carol singing session.

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Other contributions - including donations from the annual Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival, Sheringham carnival, and a variety show held at Sheringham Little Theatre - pushed the total towards the £10,000-mark, enabling Dr Taylor and Mrs Churchyard to support seven Norfolk children with cerebral palsy.

'It is wonderful to be able to improve these children's quality of life and we are enormously grateful for all the support we have had,' Mrs Churchyard said.

Fourteen-year-old Alice Marr, who lives at West Runton, is the latest to benefit from the couple's efforts.

The teenager, who has limited hearing and is unable to speak, see or sit up unaided, is dependent on a £6,000 specialist wheelchair bought as a result of an appeal run by family and friends in 2012.

She also has severe learning difficulties and scoliosis – a condition causing the spine to curve to the side – and underwent a 12 hour operation to insert a rod into her back seven years ago.

Disaster struck when, not only did the rod break, leaving Alice in agonising pain and causing her spine to curve further, the cable allowing her chair to recline broke.

'We had already got a quote to replace the wheelchair's footplate and side bars,' Alice's mum, Sarah Dewhurst, explained. 'But when the cable snapped too, we were left wondering what to do.'

However, after a friend told the couple about Love for Leo, Dr Taylor and Mrs Churchyard came to the rescue.

'It was like a miracle, they came round the next day and wrote us a cheque,' Mrs Dewhurst said. 'It is essentially the kindness of strangers and what is fantastic is that is leaves you free to worry about all the other stuff.'

Keen to avoid putting Alice through another traumatic and risky operation to replace the broken rod in her back, doctors are now managing her pain, and, Mrs Dewhurst said, she is back to her usual 'spirited and determined' self.

'She has great personality,' she added. 'And you can get an awful lot of return for a little bit of love from Alice and that is just a joy.'

Dr Taylor and Mrs Churchyard are keen to support more youngsters with cerebral palsy. To contact Love for Leo, email: reacgenet@btinternet.com or phone 01263 823588.

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