A better life for Ben: Fundraising appeal for nine-year-old tops £20,000 in less than a month
PUBLISHED: 17:35 13 June 2019 | UPDATED: 11:44 17 June 2019
When Sheringham Primary School music teacher Jon Cooper heard about an appeal to raise £60,000 for a life-changing operation for nine-year-old pupil Ben Taylor, he decided to get on his bike and make a difference.
And, on Saturday, Mr Cooper, 53, set off on a 200-mile cycle ride around the Norfolk border, passing through Beccles, Bungay, Thetford and Wisbech before heading back to Cromer via Kings Lynn.
Having taught school choir member Ben for four years, Mr Cooper - a keen cyclist whose previous challenges have included a 500-mile ride in the Lake District for cancer charity Big C and a 560-mile ride from Geneva to Nice - was determined to help.
"Ben is inspirational, he lights up the room," Mr Cooper said. "He is incredibly enthusiastic about school and music and even if you have had a bad day, he'll put a smile on your face."
Ben, whose twin brother Alex died at the age of just four days, suffered a bleed on the brain at birth and was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy at the age of two.
Until two years ago, he was able to walk with a frame but, as he grew, the muscles in his legs became increasingly tight, taking away his ability to stand unaided, as well as leaving him reliant on a wheelchair to get around and needing powerful drugs to control the severe pain he suffers on a daily basis. His parents Belinda and Laurence were told by doctors at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital that an operation to relieve the spasticity in Ben's legs could dramatically improve his quality of life but, because Ben is not eligible to have the procedure on the NHS, they launched a £60,000 fundraising appeal a few weeks ago with the help of the charity Just 4 Children.
Donations have flooded in and the appeal has already topped the £20,000-mark, giving the whole family a boost and giving Ben, whose six-year-old brother Dylan is also a pupil at Sheringham Primary, a renewed hope for the future.
"Ben is an amazing, happy, friendly child, he is so positive and knowing he is eligible for the operation has given him the confidence to start trying new things," Mrs Taylor said.
"The fantastic amount of support we have had is very humbling and although he knows it is a long road ahead, Ben is looking forward to being more independent and just being more comfortable on a daily basis."
String of fundraising events planned to help Ben reach his £60,000 target
Ben's mum Belinda has organised the following events to support his appeal, which will also pay for the £25,000 of physiotherapy he will need after his operation.
His dad Laurence is planning to scale Ben Nevis on June 29 in his son's honour, while Ben has written an e-book telling the tale of young superhero Tom, a wheelchair user who embarks on a magical journey and comes face to face with the evil Robo Green Grasshopper.
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June 21 at 7pm: Charity night at the Constantia Restaurant, West Runton.
June 22 from 10am-2pm: Bag pack at Tesco, Sheringham.
June 30 at 3pm: Family movie afternoon at the Lighthouse Church.
July 4 at 7pm: Clothes swish at Sheringham Primary School.
July 6 from 10am-2pm: Let's Get Ready to Jumble sale at Sheringham Guide headquarters.
July 23 from 3.30pm-7.30pm: Go Wild for Ben: Family event at the Bower, Sheringham Park. Free parking, tickets £5 per child.
For more information, to make a donation or to download Ben's book, visit www.betterlifeforben.com