Dad gets on his bike for daughter’s hospice

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A FATHER of a disabled child is cycling from London to Paris to raise thousands of pounds for Naomi House.

Army recruitment officer Sergeant Lewis Crouch has enlisted his boss, Colour Sergeant Neil Turner, and friend Jason Campbell for the 380-mile challenge next month – and they have already collected £9,000 in donations.

The cyclists are raising the cash for the children’s hospice near Winchester which provides vital respite care for Sgt Crouch’s nine-year-old daughter Tia.

She suffers from late-infantile Batten disease – a rare, fatal illness which has left her 100 per cent disabled.

Sgt Crouch, 29, of Hilsea, said: ‘It’s a hereditary neurodegenerative disease affecting the brain and nervous system.

‘It means she cannot do anything for herself.

‘She has no mobility at all, she can’t speak or communicate, she’s lost her eyesight and she has to be fed through a tube.

‘It’s the most extreme disability.’

He said for the first three years of her life, Tia appeared to be a healthy, active child.

‘We were based in Germany at the time and she was developing as per normal and the day before her third birthday she had her first seizure,’ Sgt Crouch said.

He added: ‘I don’t think you ever come to terms with it. You just learn to adapt to it. As a parent, you’ve got to put it to one side. Tia needs our support. You haven’t got time to sit down and dwell on the fact she’s ill.

‘You’ve got to get on with it. I don’t sit down and think about it in too much depth, I take every day as it comes.’

Sgt Crouch, who is married to Tammy, 28, and has another daughter, five, said Naomi House has offered key support to the family.

He said: ‘Naomi House is so important. It gives us a break from normality and allows us to do something different from the day in, day out stuff.

‘We use it as regularly as we can. We go there as a family to relax and they organise events for us. Tia requires us to be up through the night caring for her and Naomi House gives us that bit of breathing space.’

The cyclists are busy clocking up the miles in training for the four-day bike ride which starts on June 13.

To donate money, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/TeamAFCOPortsmouth