AN EFFORT to renovate a back garden belonging to a Waterlooville dad who says he is ‘lucky to be alive’ looks set to unite the town’s community.
Landscapers, carpenters, golfing green keepers, supermarket staff and a specialist sports equipment supplier are among those who have come to Ricky Kirk’s aid since his story appeared in The News on Monday.
The 39-year-old former sub-contractor hoped to tidy up the garden of his family home in Galaxie Road, Cowplain, after refurbishing the inside.
But as he neared the end of the project he ‘died twice' when he suffered back-to-back cardiac arrests on June 25.
His partner Clarissa had planned to team up with family friend Michelle Dewdney to tidy the garden on Saturday, April 13.
But it now looks like their tag-team effort has grown into a community-wide campaign – after scores of businesses and Good Samaritans were touched by Ricky’s story.
Ricky said: ‘I’m completely overwhelmed by the generosity of everybody who is trying to help.
‘The sense of community spirit has blown me away and it’s looking like April 13 is going to be a crazy day.
‘Thank you for the absolutely amazing response.’
Having been taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital for lifesaving treatment, Ricky was forced to stay at the site for three months after getting severe sepsis and pneumonia.
They caused him to lose ‘about 95’ per cent of his vision and left him with a motor disorder, apraxia, and hypoxia – an injury triggered when the brain is starved of oxygen.
Clarissa, who his now his full-time carer, hopes a renewed back garden will given Ricky a place to rekindle the bond he once had with their little boy, George, three, in the summer.
On the response to Monday’s appeal, the 34-year-old said: ‘It has been amazing so far.
‘I had a company come forward who are going to re-do all our fencing, Michelle has been contacted by some landscapers and there are so many businesses who have said they just want to help.
‘The project that was going to be me, Michelle and some friends has grown in a way we never could have expected.
‘There’s rounding up people to get a few pairs of extra hands, then there’s this – it’s incredible.’
Among those supporting the drive, known as the Campaign for Ricky, is Sheffield-based Goalfix Sports – which supplies equipment for blind sports.
The firm has agreed to send Ricky a new football it is developing which is larger than a standard blind football and makes a sound upon impact – making it suitable for his reduced vision and safe for George to play with.
It is understood Fareham-based firm L & S Waste Management Ltd will also be providing a skip for the day of the effort.
Supermarket fundraiser will offer up credit for refreshments
After picking up a copy of The News and reading Ricky’s story, former Tesco fundraiser Sheila Barker-Wallis was touched.
The 77-year-old from Horndean laid down her duties as Tesco Petersfield’s community champion a year ago but she continues to serve local people and works on the customer service representative at the store.
She will donate a £100 Tesco voucher to the Campaign for Ricky.
‘I read Ricky’s story when it flashed up on my phone and I knew I could help,’ she said.
‘What he’s been through, at his age, is heartbreaking and I think the community coming together like this is amazing.
‘I imagine they’ll need refreshments on the day, so the money can go on that, and we have some beautiful flowers in at the moment they can choose from too.’
County councillor’s bid to recruit reliable hands
As a Hampshire councillor for Waterloo and Stakes North, Ann Briggs admits she has a vested geographical interest in helping people like Ricky Kirk.
But while she says his story ‘touched the hearts of a lot of people’, she was able to empathise with him on some level.
‘Having had sepsis myself, I felt very strongly that they needed help and I just asked the green keepers at Waterlooville Golf Club if there is a chance they would be lend a hand,’ she said. ‘I was told all of them would be willing.’
‘It would be absolutely wonderful to see to see the mess in the garden cleared so it can be enjoyed by their little boy.’