Family book operation that will let two-year-old Witney girl stand unaided

Oxford Mail: Sophia Aitken with mum Tara and dad Andrew Buy this photo » Sophia Aitken with mum Tara and dad Andrew

ALMOST £60,000 has been raised so that a two-year-old can travel to the United States with her family for an operation that could spare her from a life in a wheelchair.

Sophia Aitken, who cannot walk without a frame, has a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic diplegia, that causes pain and spasms in her legs.

Her family have been trying to raise £65,000 so that she can undergo an operation which is not available to young children in the UK, to remove faulty nerves in her spine and enable her to walk unaided.

Thanks to donations from family, friends and complete strangers, mum Tara Harris, 42, and dad Andrew Aitken, 35, have now booked the flights and operation.

Ms Harris, who lives in Witney, said: “I am totally, totally blown away.

“I am so overwhelmed by the generosity of people in the Witney area.

“Strangers are just wanting the best for Sophia.

“They are wanting her to achieve her dream.

“I feel very humbled by it all. It is a lovely feeling to think that other people can see that this is so important to her that they want to give.”

The family received thousands of pounds of donations after their story was featured in the Oxford Mail and its sister paper the Witney Gazette in June, six weeks after the fundraising began.

Ms Harris said: “We had lots of donations after being in the newspaper.

“I had people come up to me in the street and hand me money and we had people knocking on the door and giving donations.

“It was lovely.”

The family will fly out to the US on Sunday, October 13, and the operation is booked at the hospital in St Louis, Missouri, for Thursday, October 17.

Ms Harris said: “All of a sudden it has become very real.

“It was almost as if at the beginning we were fundraising for someone else – it was like I didn’t believe it was possible.

“Now it is booked and it’s happening. I am scared, but I am also excited because this is going to change her life forever.

“We are over there for four weeks and fingers crossed we will be back with a child who is able to stand.”

Sophia was born eight weeks premature and was diagnosed with the condition when she was 18 months old after Ms Harris noticed problems with her legs.

The family hope to raise further money at Curry Paradise, in Witney, which is putting on a five-course banquet for £15 a head on Monday.

Members of the public can attend the event, which starts at 7.30pm, and meet Ms Harris and Mr Aitken, with £10 from each meal going towards Sophia’s fund.

The fundraising target of £65,000 includes £45,000 for the operation, flights and accommodation and £20,000 for ongoing physiotherapy. More than £55,000 has been raised on the family’s Just Giving web page alone.

To book a table at the fundraising banquet, call Curry Paradise on 01993 702187.

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