Portsmouth boy’s snap with his teddy raises awareness of epilepsy

From left, Roberts Centre chief executive Carole Damper, Robert Bear, eight-year-old Matthew Smith and his mum Rachel, 38 

Picture: Malcolm Wells (170418-0947)
From left, Roberts Centre chief executive Carole Damper, Robert Bear, eight-year-old Matthew Smith and his mum Rachel, 38 Picture: Malcolm Wells (170418-0947)
Nicola Nixon led the protest outside Purbrook Park School Picture: Habibur Rahman (171257-382)

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USING a teddy bear to highlight a potentially life-threatening neurological condition may not be the average way to raise awareness of the ailment.

But that is exactly what brave eight-year-old Matthew Smith plumped to do.

The winning picture of Matthew holding his teddy in front of the Spinnaker when it was lit up purple of epilepsy awareness

The winning picture of Matthew holding his teddy in front of the Spinnaker when it was lit up purple of epilepsy awareness

The youngster posed with his favourite stuffed toy to raise awareness of epilepsy – a condition he has to contend with on a daily basis.

Young Matthew, of North End, stood proudly in front of Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, which was lit up purple to show solidarity for those with epilepsy.

And now Matthew’s snap has clinched him top gongs in the monthly Where’s The Bear prize contest by The Roberts Centre, in Landport.

His mum Rachael, 38, was thrilled by the revelation and said: ‘We were quite excited by it – I don’t normally win anything.

‘But it was entirely Matthew’s idea. He wanted to use the competition to raise awareness of epilepsy.’

The pair, who live in Lyndhurst Road, are the latest winners of the competition, which is being backed by The News and the Spinnaker Tower.

They won a free family pass up the 110m attraction.

Launched earlier this year, the contest is part of a celebration of The Roberts Centre’s 30th anniversary.

Carole Roberts, chief executive of the Crasswell Street-based charity, said judges were touched by Matthew’s entry.

She said: ‘Our mission is to improve the lives of children and families and encouraging people to have an understanding about conditions such as epilepsy and supporting Matthew in doing that is important.’

Rachael, a former paediatric nurse at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, who now works as a school nurse in the area, said Matthew’s condition had made his life difficult.

She added: ‘It’s not just about seizures – that’s what everybody thinks – it’s all the other stuff related to anxiety and depression, too.

‘Matthew is quite well controlled at the moment but it’s the day to day; he suffers from anxiety as a side-effect of the epilepsy.

‘He needs a lot more help at school. But not everybody knows this.’

The photo contest has started again. To join, take a snap of your teddy by a landmark in the Portsmouth area and email it to info@robertscentre.org.uk.