Sophie inspires world record bid

A toddler's battle with a brain tumour has inspired her grandfather to plan a world record attempt to gather history’s biggest ever fancy dress crowd.

Up to the age of 19 months, little Sophie Harper seemed to be a normal healthy toddler.

But her health took an unexpected downturn last year when she was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour.

Now, having braved an eight-and-a half hour lifesaving operation, chemo-therapy, radiotherapy and four months in isolation, her fighting spirit has inspired her grandfather to organise a record-breaking charity event.

Sophie recently returned home to her family on Wood Street, Norwich, from Addenbrooke's Hospital, but she still cannot walk, talk or eat.

Her mother, Anna Huggins, 27, said: "When Sophie was first diagnosed, it was a shock that we are still coming to terms with and we have no certainties about how she will progress although we've seen some amazing progress in her."

Sophie is fed with a specialist milk feed that goes into an opening in her stomach and she is in constant need of an oxygen machine.

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She has another six months of chemotherapy and then a rehab-ilitation programme of up to nine months.

Mrs Huggins has a nursing background and used to work at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital in paediatrics while Sophie's father Mike, 38, works at insurance firm Norwich Union. They also have a five-year-old son, Oliver.

Sophie's grandfather, Southwold fishmonger John Huggins, has planned a world record attempt to gather history's biggest ever fancy dress crowd to raise money for the charities which have helped the battling toddler.

The event, at Southwold on August 19, has been accepted by the Guinness Book of Records, and will follow a sponsored walk of about two miles.

Mrs Huggins said: "What dad is doing is really nice because I don't know how we would've managed it without those charities' support, and how we would have been so close to Sophie.

"I think it's important to give something back to the charities for them to continue because I know what a difference it's made for us being down there for such a long time and being able to stay together as a family."

Mr Huggins travels up from Southwold twice a week to visit. He said: "It's been such an emotional rollercoaster ride and we can only just wish she improves and that she can have some quality of life."

Sophie and her family hope to join the world record attempt, where entrants will wear costumes with the theme of children's characters.

All money raised will go to the Sick Children's Trust, East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) and Cancer Research UK. A collection will also be taken during the walk for Sophie's Rehabilitation Fund.

The event has been made possible because of support from Southwold Summer Theatre, Nutters of Southwold, the Red Lion, the Swan Inn, Barnby, Harbour Marine Service and John's Fish Shop, Southwold.

Registration evenings for the record attempt will be held in the Red Lion, Southwold, from 7pm on July 2 and July 25. For more information, ring John on 07768 556106, e-mail john_huggins@btconnect.com, or go to www.sophiesworldrecord.org

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