Great support for Helpston girl Jessica’s campaign to raise funds for vital operation

Jessica Howard, right with mum Hayley and sister Eva
Jessica Howard, right with mum Hayley and sister Eva
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A mother says she is overwhelmed after neighbours launched an appeal to help her daughter who has cerebral palsy.

Jessica Howard was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just nine months old and the condition means she is unable to walk without the aid of splints and a frame.

But Jess, now four, doesn’t let the condition get in the way of living a normal life mum Hayley, dad David and twin sister Eva.

The family, who live in Helpston, are waiting to learn if Jess can have an operation on her legs to improve her walking on the NHS or if they will have to pay to have it done in America.

But even if she is lucky enough to get the treatment on the NHS, Jess will still need intensive physiotherapy which will cost thousands of pounds.

Now more than 60 fundraisers have formed Team Jess and will take part in the Great Eastern Run in Peterborough to help her cause.

To support the campaign, Hegarty Solicitors, which has an office in Ironmonger Street, Stamford, has pledged £1,000 to sponsor the runners and provide T-shirts.

Hayley, 31, said: “The support we have had from the community has been absolutely overwhelming.

“To be honest, it is quite emotional to think that so many people want to help my little girl.

“Jess is such a bubbly outgoing normal girl - she just doesn’t have her legs.

“It is very rare that we see her get frustrated, she is just a happy girl.”

Jess and Eva were born 10 weeks premature and Hayley and David, a lorry driver, were warned they might have health issues.

But while Eva was fine, doctors recognised that Jess was having movement problems when she was two days old. She was diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy when she was nine months old.

It was a shock at the time but Hayley said: “We are positive now because Jess can do everything other children can. She doesn’t let it hold her back.

“And how can you sit around moping when you have got so many people supporting you?”

Team Jess is led by Alistair Peat, 38, who got to know the family because his daughter attends Helpston Pre-School with Jess and Eva.

Ian Robertson and Tony Grant are also key in driving forward the fundraising.

Alistair, known as Ali, said: “I first met Jess at a halloween party and she was a very determined, intelligent little girl.

“I approached her mum to raise money, and it snowballed from there.

“It started as two of us wanting to do the Great Eastern Run to try and get fitter and the reality is that we’ve now got 66 people taking part.

“There has been such a momentum created now in Helpston.

“It isn’t about us as individuals, it is about us all working together to make a big difference to Jess’ life.”

Some members of Team Jess will complete the half-marathon at the Great Eastern Run on October 13 while others will take part in the 5k fun run.

Ali is hoping to encourage pupils from John Clare Primary School in Helpston to take part in the fun run with their parents.

Some people will also be running the Sheffield half-marathon next month.

For more information visit www.teamjess.org.