Little Blake’s appeal reaches �50,000 target in Dereham

The family at the centre of a fund-raising phenomenon have thanked Norfolk people for their overwhelming kindness.

When Luke and Debbie Barley nervously launched the Blake's Wish To Walk appeal in July, they never imagined their �50,000 target would be met in just 15 weeks.

Now three-year-old Blake can fly out to America in the new year for life-changing surgery helping him to walk unaided for the first time.

The first donation came in at 8.15 the very morning the appeal featured in the EDP's sister paper The Dereham Times and Mrs Barley was frequently moved to tears by the heartfelt phone calls, emails and letters that followed.

A wide variety of events, from sponsored leg waxes to motorbike marathons, have been held to boost the coffers and offers of help flooded in despite the tough economic times.

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'We are so excited,' said Mrs Barley, of Dereham. 'Luke and I are overwhelmed by the support we've received. To hit our target in such a short time is absolutely incredible and a testament of the community spirit we have been fortunate to experience.

'We would like to thank every single person who has contributed to Blake's appeal. Words will never be enough to express our gratitude to each and every person who has helped our dream for Blake to become a reality.

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'We're thrilled that we can give Blake the chance to have a more inclusive and independent future. To see him chase after his sister Beth and brother Bryce, play games he'd never have managed and walk out of nursery without his frame would be a dream come true.'

Blake, who uses a walking frame to get about, was born 10 weeks early and developed a form of cerebral palsy after suffering a bleed on his brain.

Permanent stiffness in his leg muscles means he can only walk on tiptoes and must wear uncomfortable leg splints 23 hours a day to force his heels to the floor.

And yet he stays cheery, despite enduring chronic pain in his back, legs and hips.

After researching potential treatments online, Mrs Barley, 33, came across a procedure called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which severs the nerves responsible for sending faulty messages to the legs.

Demand for the operation means it is not readily available on the NHS, and paying for private treatment in this country was not an option.

Blake's fund-raising target may have been met, but the journey towards his first steps is only just beginning.

All the appeal events already planned will still take place and every penny raised will be put to good use, helping the youngster to find his feet after surgery.

'We set �50,000 as a target based on information from other families,' Mrs Barley said. 'That was the money we needed to get to America for the operation and start his after care.

'The chances are he will be worse before he gets better, but his long-term chances of better mobility will be dramatically improved.'

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