Six-year-old Ellice Barr had been unable to walk due to cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage sustained at her birth.
She needed an operation to help her walk that was not available on the NHS.
So kindhearted strangers stepped in and raised the money needed. It was the best present that little Ellice could have asked for this Christmas.
Mother Amy, 32, who lives with husband Joe, 38, an assistant store manager, in Deal, Kent, with their son Jay, eight, and Joe’s daughters Chelsea, 18, and Cayse-Jo, 16, said: “We have just been overwhelmed with people’s kindness in helping to raise the money to help Ellice walk.
“To see her standing on her own two feet without any help is just the most amazing sight in the world. It is the best Christmas present for her we could ever have wished for.”
Ellice was diagnosed with Diplegic Spastic Cerebral Palsy when she was just 22 months old.
She had been born seven weeks early, weighing a tiny 3lb 9oz, and while her brother had been standing up at six months, Ellice was late even crawling.
Mr Barr said: “Ellice could only stand on her tiptoes and she couldn’t walk.
“She saw a paediatrician and then was diagnosed.
“It was a massive shock – we had never imagined it would be anything like that.” Cerebral palsy occurs when a child sustains a brain injury before or at birth, most commonly when premature.
Parts of the brain that control leg movement and coordination are particularly vulnerable. The difficulties it causes change continuously in the growing child.
Ellice spent the first years of her life using a walking frame and a wheelchair.
Then the couple heard about the selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery which can help children with cerebral palsy to walk.
The six-hour operation involves cutting the nerves in the lower spine responsible for making the muscles become rigid.
Over the following months movement and walking improve. But it isn’t available on the NHS.
Mr Barr said: “We set up a fundraising page for Ellice in November last year and donations started to come in.
All these people were willing to help her achieve her dream.” Backers included Millwall star Jed Wallace, who carried Ellice on to the pitch as team mascot in April.
In May they hit their target of £65,000 to pay for the operation and months of physiotherapy afterwards.
Ellice had surgery at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in July.
Mr Barr said: “It was difficult at first because she is having to use muscles to walk that she has never used before. But she is doing fantastically well. For the first four months she started to walk using sticks to help with balance but a few weeks ago she started to walk without them. To be able to see her walk like this is a dream come true – we never thought that we would see it happen.
“Her brother Jay is fantastic with her and he has helped her recovery enormously. He wants her to play tag and chase with him too, which has helped her improve a lot quicker.”
Ellice is due to have an operation to lengthen her calf muscles next year, which surgeons have said will help her recovery even more.
Mr Barr added: ‘We are so proud of what she has achieved, and to see her walk now is the best present any of us could have asked for. We are going to have a lovely Christmas this year.”