April 18 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Toni Richardson has spent a decade fundraising for her son, who was born with cerebral palsy. Ramzy Alwakeel finds out what keeps her going - and how life has changed since Taylor, now 12, first appeared in the Recorder.
“I can’t go up to people and say, ‘give me your money’.”
Those were the first words of Romford mum Toni Richardson after a colleague suggested fundraising to pay for her son’s cerebral palsy treatment.
Toni and little Taylor had just returned from a trip to a specialist institute in London, paid for with her savings, where the tot had begun the steep climb to becoming more independent.
But a decade later, friends and Recorder readers have helped Toni overcome her misgivings and net £80,000 for 12-year-old Taylor’s specialist physiotherapy – which has seen him fly to an institute in Hungary and spend time at a residential centre in Bedfordshire.
In that time, Corbets Tey School student Taylor has come on in leaps and bounds – no mean feat considering doctors didn’t think he’d ever learn to walk.
“From the outset they said he wouldn’t survive,” said Toni, now 45, “or if he did he’d be a total vegetable. He is far from that.
“He still needs help, but he wouldn’t have got where he is now without all the financial support.”
Now, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of her first fundraising event, Toni wants to say “thank-you” to those who have helped Taylor during his tough journey by putting cash in collections, attending parties and quiz nights, abseiling down buildings, completing sponsored bike rides and entering fun runs.
The Recorder first covered Taylor’s battle to walk in 2003, and kind-hearted regulars at the Durham Arms were so moved by his story they raised an extra £2,000.
Then a fun run around Harrow Lodge Park raised another £3,000, and the cash got Taylor into the Peto Institute for Conductive Education, Hungary, where Toni received the amazing news that her son might one day take his first steps.
Taylor was seven before the dream became a reality, but it was worth the wait.
“The first time Taylor walked, I couldn’t believe it,” said proud Eastbury mum Toni, of Eastbury Road. “It was like winning the lottery. It was the best feeling ever – all the hard work had been worth it.”
What caused the bleed that left Taylor brain damaged when Toni was 38 weeks pregnant still isn’t clear.
But the Corbets Tey pupil’s progress is plain to see.
“Now Taylor can walk independently and I know it’s because of the route we’ve taken,” said Toni. “I don’t feel he would be doing the things he’s doing now if we had just gone down the NHS route – there isn’t the funding there.
“He can play football in the back garden. He uses a walking frame for safety and he does fall over sometimes, but he can get himself up. He’s able to feed himself.
“Football is his passion – and to see him open the front door, walk into the house. get himself out into the back garden, get his football out and start kicking it about is incredible. He’s amazing.
“If he can continue private physiotherapy at Bedfordshire then the outcome for him might be better and as a young man he may be able to live a more independent life.”
Toni still says she’d rather hold fundraising events than ask people for money outright – so she’s continuing her efforts next week with a sponsored barn dance.
If you’d like to help Taylor, you can make a donation by contacting the Recorder office on 020 8477 3903 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We will then put you in contact with Toni.