LITTLE Francis Clark wants to be able to walk – and he is a step closer to that dream thanks to readers of The News.
The two-year-old is now wearing a special Lycra suit designed to help ease his hip muscles into their correct position, and take his first steps unaided.
His mother Emma Callard, of Sandringham Road, Fratton, issued a heartfelt plea in The News in June, calling on people to help cover the cost of the £500 suit.
The donations came in thick and fast and soon Francis’ family was able to buy one.
Now Emma has issued a big thank you to those who raised money and donated towards hitting their target.
She said: ‘I want to thank everyone who got in touch or phoned – it has been really overwhelming.’
Francis was born prematurely when Emma was just 26 weeks pregnant.
She was due to have twins but complications meant his brother Ryalie died.
His new suit was delivered last Thursday and the youngster is now getting used to his new lease of life.
Emma said: ‘He is wearing it for an hour a day, then two, then three, until he’s in it for a normal working day.
‘Everyone has been so generous and I would never have imagined he would have this opportunity.
‘He seems to be moving his legs a bit better each day.’
Emma sees a bright future for Francis and says he has already taken a shine to kicking a football.
She hopes he will one day be playing with his older brother Jack.
But she says Francis has been feeling under the weather recent;ly, with doctors fearing he may have cerebral palsy.
‘Hopefully this suit will help him walk in the future’, she said.
‘He’s got an obsession with football at the moment and it would be good for him to stand and kick it.
‘He shuffles over to the ball and stretches his leg out to kick it.’
Their efforts were boosted by The Fort Cumberland Arms, in Eastney Road, Southsea, which held a fun day with games, a tombola and a raffle.
The day helped raise £800 towards Francis’ suit and the pub presented Emma with a cheque in September.
Emma added: ‘The fundraiser was so welcoming.
‘We took Francis down and it was really overwhelming.
‘The money we have will pay for the next suit after he’s grown out of this one and we have enough money to cover the cost of a spare one.’
Tina Dolling, the landlady of the Fort Cumberland Arms, said: ‘We saw Francis’ story in the paper and wanted to raise money for the little man.
‘I’m so pleased for him and it was well worth holding the day.
‘At the end of the day, doing something like this is what local pubs are all about.
‘We are all chuffed for him.’