The Observer is urging people across the area to dig deep and help a Chichester boy walk for the very first time so he can enjoy playing football with his friends.
As part of the Fighting For Finley campaign, the Observer wants to help Finley Fairs and his family raise as much as money as possible so he can undergo a special operation at Frenchay Hospital in Bristol.
Finley, six, who is a pupil at St Richard’s RC Primary School, Chichester, has diplegic spastic cerebral palsy which means the muscles in his legs are painfully tight, and prevent him from walking or running.
His parents Lydia and Dean Fairs are desperate for their little boy to be able to run around like other children and are currently in the middle of a drive to raise £24,000 for the operation which is called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR). The procedure loosens the tightness of the muscles and has had an enormous success rate on other children both here and abroad.
So far around £12,500 has been raised, thanks to a variety of events held by people across the community including non-school uniform days, sponsored runs and cake sales.
Finley’s classmate Caitlin Govan helped organise a coffee morning and bring- and-buy sale for him in East Wittering which raised £1,400 for the fund, while other events have included a cake sale at the Homebase store in Chichester organised by Tony Russell which raised £378.
His mother Lydia said they had been bowled over by people’s support for their son.
“I’m sort of amazed by it really. You come into a thing and you’ve got to raise the money but you don’t know what people’s responses are going to be and it’s just been quite humbling actually to be honest. It has been absolutely amazing and I can’t thank everyone enough.
“I’m struggling a little bit because there are so many people who’ve done things and I don’t know all of them, I’m thankful to everyone who’s helped in any way by organising events or who’s donated.”
In addition to the community’s efforts, the family have also received help from the Caudwell Children’s charity.
Lydia said the operation would make the world of difference to Finley. At the moment he cannot walk unaided; he uses a K walker and splints and receives daily physiotherapy. He needs help doing everyday tasks such as dressing and needs a wheelchair to go any distance.
The operation would improve Finley’s quality of life and help him be independent and keep up with his friends.
“Finley does know a lot of people have done things for him, and he thinks he’s famous because he’s been in paper – I’m keeping everything so that when he’s older he can look through it and see, and he’ll be able to understand it,” said Lydia.
As part of the fundraising drive, a tattoo studio in Chichester is hoping to make a lasting mark on Finley’s life by offering half-price tattoos. Stylish Skin Tattoos in Southgate is holding the fundraising day on Sunday, February 26, with proceeds going to Finley.
Owner Steve Dunning said: “It was my wife that mentioned Finley’s situation to me and his need for this life-changing operation. When I heard his story I decided that I would do something to help and that one way to do this would be through the business.
“Getting a permanent tattoo is obviously a serious decision and not something that should be taken lightly, but if you do want a new piece of body art then this is a great opportunity to get a great deal from one of our brilliant artists.
“Finley’s appeal has touched everyone in the studio and we are pleased that we can do something to help, we want as many people as possible to book in on February 26.”
Finley’s mum, Lydia Fairs, said: “I was amazed and thrilled to hear about Stylish Skin’s fundraising idea, I think it is wonderful. It gives people who are thinking about getting a tattoo the chance to get it at an amazing price while helping a local child.”
The studio is offering the half price deal on any tattoos up to £50 in value on Sunday, February 26.
Bookings for the fundraising event can be made by calling the studio on 01243 788666.
The Fighting For Finley appeal is supported by national charity, Caudwell Children.
For more information or to donate visit www.justgiving.com/fightingforfinley or call 01782 600114 or see www.cauldwellchildren.com