A six-year-old Millwall fan’s wish to have “legs like her friends” could finally come true after she smashed her fundraising target for potentially life-changing surgery.
As previously reported in the News, Ellice Barr was just 22-months-old when she was diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy after her parents noticed she was barely crawling.
The youngster, who was born seven weeks early weighing just 3lbs 9oz, has splints on her legs and has to use a walking frame to get around as the condition causes muscle tension and spasms in her lower legs.
Now aged six, Lions fan Ellice says she wants to have legs like her school friends and be able to climb.
And her wish could finally come true after hitting her £65,000 fundraising target thanks to an incredible show of support from both the community where she lives in Deal, Kent, and fans and players across the football divide.
Speaking to the News, Ellice’s dad Joe, 38, said his family, which includes Ellice’s eight-year-old brother Jay, and mum Amy, 32, had been overwhelmed by the support.
“It’s just amazed us; not just the support from home, but the support from London has blown our minds,” said the Millwall season ticket holder, who also has two teenage daughters – Chelsea, seventeen, and Cayce-Jo, fifteen.
“It amazed us to the point I was befriending people from across the football divide.”
Ellice’s family held an appreciation night on Saturday, June 23, to announce the news that they had hit their fundraising target and to her surprise Millwall winger Jed Wallace turned up.
Dad Joe said the pair had formed a close bond since Jed organised for the whole family to visit The Den to meet the players and see the dressing room and dugout after he read about her plight on Twitter.
“Ellice absolutely loved it; she didn’t even know he was coming – nobody knew he was invited,” he said.
“He said it would be great if in a year’s time she could walk out with me without a walker.”
Ellice is expected to have selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital on July 20.
The surgery is not currently available on the NHS but it could help her to walk unaided.
She will spend a week in hospital and then two weeks in a nearby hospice to attend daily physiotherapy sessions before returning home to Kent.
“She may need to have physiotherapy for up to two years because the operation effectively takes her legs back to a baby-like state and most children can take up to two years to learn to walk from new-born,” said Joe.
“Like any surgery, there are no guarantees. For us, if she walks with a little bit of a limp that would be great because she has cerebral palsy and she’s got it for life but if it can minimise the walking aids she has to use, like the wheelchair and the frame, then that would be great.
“We hope we can improve her independence and quality of life.
“I just want her to be able to have a life that is as ‘normal’ as possible because, although there are disability laws, she would be more restricted in her career options and we just want the best for our little girl.”
To follow Ellice’s journey, visit her Twitter or Facebook page by searching for Ellice’s Wish to Walk.