Nothing can hold our little girl back
In March, MotherFatherSon – the major BBC television series starring Richard Gere – aired across the country. It was a thriller revolving around a family member suffering a serious brain injury, and it received rave reviews.
At home in Portsmouth, 11-year-old Jevonne Parsons, who has cerebral palsy, was also tuning into the drama.
She looked up at her mum Sherry, pointed at herself on the TV screen and grinned: ‘That’s me, mummy.’
‘Jevonne was really good in front of the camera,’ says mum Sherry, 42.
‘I was so proud.’
In 2007, Jevonne was born three months premature at St Mary’s Hospital, Milton, and just weeks before her first birthday she developed epilepsy.
Following that, when she was just two years old, her mum Sherry and dad Juma Parsons, who is a logistician in the Royal Navy, were informed she had cerebral palsy which affects all her limbs.
Sherry says: ‘The first few months were so emotional and we feel so lucky to have her following the difficult start to life that she endured.
‘Being three months premature, she weighed just over a kilogram when she was born.
‘It was a shock to receive the diagnosis of cerebral palsy, as at that point we did not believe there had been any complications during her early years.
‘However, we are so proud of everything she has gone on to achieve.’
The condition has had a major impact on Jevonne’s life, as she requires support with many everyday tasks and uses a walking frame and wheelchair in order to get around.
However, despite the challenges she has faced, she continues to remain positive and earlier this year, she made her TV debut with an appearance in MotherFatherSon.
Jevonne’s acting journey began three years ago, Sherry tells me, when she came across an advert on Facebook.
‘We were looking for something for her to do.
‘The advert was for a couple of modelling gigs that were for adults and young people who had disabilities.
‘And I just thought that this was something we could do.’
Through the advert, Zebeedee Management agency got in contact with Sherry when they heard the BBC was looking for a child like Jevonne to star in an upcoming drama.
‘I was shocked when I heard the news,’ adds Sherry.
‘I had never thought of Jevonne acting, she had done drama at school but nothing more.’
Although Jevonne’s speaking role in MotherFatherSon was minor, Sherry and the producers were ‘blown away’ with how confident she was.
Sherry explains: ‘Jevonne needs assistance with so many parts of life and has delayed speech and sight issues so I had to persuade her.
‘But she really enjoyed it.
‘I can’t fault the experience – it was absolutely wonderful.
‘We were only supposed to be involved with one scene but we were called back for three.’
Now, Sherry is keen to encourage all children with a disability to reach for the stars and not let anything hold them back.
She says that Jevonne’s schools, Cliffdale Primary and Mary Rose Academy, and Zebeedee Management have played a major role in encouraging her to have career aspirations.
‘Appearing in a major TV series didn’t phase her at all and we think it is a clear sign that nothing should ever hold her back from doing anything,’ smiles Sherry.
‘We’ve always told her to just do her best and see where it might take her.
‘But I was in complete shock when I watched it back.’
After her role in MotherFatherSon, there was talk of Jevonne starring in the upcoming Marvel movie as an extra.
But for now, the Parsons are still revelling from Jevonne’s acting debut and enjoying family life.
‘She’s a typical 11-year-old ,’ laughs Sherry.
‘She’s determined but stubborn and is the loveliest little soul.
‘It’s really hard having a child with a disability but we want to encourage others that anything is possible.
‘I cannot thank enough all those who have supported Jevonne.
‘I am forever in their debt,’ says Sherry, as she smiles at her brave daughter.
‘We felt it was important to shine a spotlight on her achievements and show that survivors do not have to be defined by what they have faced.’