A families dedicated fundraising efforts to provide a custom wheelchair for their son has inspired a local councillor to walk laps for donations.
Councillor Iris Andersen of Andover’s St Mary’s Ward has taken on a lengthy walking challenge, aiming to finish 200 laps of the field at Andover Cricket Club to raise donations for 14-year-old Toby Pearce.
Toby is diagnosed with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, a rare and complex form of epilepsy that is highly drug-resistant. He can have up to 100 seizures a day and requires constant care.
After outgrowing his current wheelchair, Toby is in desperate need of a new custom chair to help him regain his quality of life.
The teen’s mother, Gemma Pearce said: “Toby is wonderful! He’s the person who will light up the room with his smile, he can be having an awful day with seizures but will still smile for me.
“He goes through so much in his life yet he loves life, he can make anyone fall in love with him just for being him. He is such a gentle soul and I honestly don’t remember life before him.”
She added: “Having the new chair would be a massive change for Toby and us as a family. Toby loves being outside and we as a family love spending quality time together whether it’s going to a day trip to the zoo, a holiday away to Butlin’s or just a walk but for the best part of a year now we have not been able to do these things as Toby’s current wheelchair is too small and causes him pain.
“The new chair allows Toby to lay flat which would alleviate the pain and allow him to stretch out completely and comfortably so that we don’t have to make a mad dash home to quickly get him out to stop the pain. It would mean we can finally start doing things together as a family again without the worry of his pain coming and having to leave where we are. We have been mostly housebound for so long we just want to be able to do normal things again.”
As soon as the family received a quote for the vital wheelchair in November, they began fundraising. The family have found raising money for the wheelchair to be a struggle, saying, “most charities won’t help with them, they assume wheelchair services should be providing a wheelchair but unfortunately this is not the case for us, because of his specialist needs they don’t provide the custom chair that is needed to meet them, leaving it down to us to find the money for the right chair.”
They have held raffles and prize draws and had worked hard to plan events throughout 2020. Gemma added: “Sadly it all had to be cancelled due to the current situation. We hit a huge standstill for a few months but then Councillor Iris Andersen contacted me to say she would love to be involved and help raise more money by doing a sponsored walk. That started this month and she’s been doing wonderfully.”
Cllr Andersen has also been approaching businesses across Andover to find sponsors and prizes to help raise extra funds. She is grateful for the help Andover businesses have provided so far, saying, “I have great admiration for the businesses who have helped. They have not had an easy time over the last 3-months, but yet they are still helping.”
Gemma added: “I set up a Facebook page ‘Toby’s wheelchair fundraising’ so I could put all the great prizes on there to raise money. We also had an amazing donation of £1000 from the Queen Charlotte foundation which we were so over the moon with and so very grateful. So all of this has kick-started the effort to reach the target.”
73-year-old Cllr Andersen was so inspired by the families efforts, she decided to do what she could to help meet their fundraising goal. Cllr Anderson has been walking laps of the Cricket field every morning and evening, in her aim of completing 200.
She said: “I’ve known the family for 6 years and Toby is an amazing person. My main aim is to do this for Toby and get him his specialised wheelchair. Once I’ve done the 200 laps, I will carry on until we can get enough funds. So far I have completed 97 laps. Gemma and the family have put in a lot of hard work organising events, which sadly due to the current COVID situation have been cancelled. So then you have to think of other ways of doing it. Whatever I am doing, I’m doing it for Toby.“
Gemma said of Cllr Andersen’s involvement: “Iris being involved is quite honestly a godsend. She genuinely cares about Toby and wants to help him. We are so grateful for her help, I am very limited to what I can do and generally don’t know many people as I’m home with Toby all the time but iris just knows everyone, So her help is just amazing.”
The family have been working hard, and have so far been able to raise £4000 of the funds needed. They hope that this new boost to their efforts can help them reach their remaining £10,000 target.
Gemma said: “As the new wheelchair is an adult chair it will be the last chair he will ever need and will last him for what we hope will be a very long life.”
For more information, visit Toby’s Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/toby-pearce14
Toby’s fundraising Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/341815440312495/