Charity champion in 13- mile wheelchair challenge

Christian Fortunato
Christian Fortunato

A GOOD Samaritan is gearing up to push a disabled boy in his wheelchair for the Hastings Half Marathon in a bid to raise money for a life-changing operation.

Ashley Varley, of Marina, St Leonards, has decided to help raise money for Christian Fortunato after seeing his parent’s fundraising plea in the Hastings Observer (November 9).

Christian was born 12 weeks early and diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

His parents desperately need £30,000 for an operation which will allow him to walk.

The life-changing procedure, called Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR),is not available on the NHS and the youngster’s parents are battling to raise the funds.

Ashley said: “I came across Christian’s story in the Hastings Observer and I immediately felt an urge to help and so I came up with the idea of running the Hastings Half Marathon, pushing Christian around the 13.1-mile course in his wheelchair.

“I discussed the idea with Christian’s parents and they were delighted.

“And needless to say that our training is now under way and things are looking very good and we should be ready for the race on March 23.”

Six-year-old Christian is able to walk a little bit with the aid of a walking frame but he needs daily physiotherapy in order to do this.

Ashley said: “Christian is faced with tight leg muscles that cause him pain and make it hard for him to walk, or be able to put his feet flat. He suffers from terrible leg cramps at night and he has to endure endless physiotherapy treatment. Despite all of this, Christian is a determined, vibrant little boy who is a joy to be around.

“He has been offered a lifeline, a chance to be able to walk, run and play with his friends, a chance of growing in to adulthood being able to walk unaided and to leave behind this debilitating condition.”

The family have already raised just over £12,000 and Ashley is confident that people will continue donating to such a worthy cause.

But the fundraising doesn’t stop at the Half Marathon, with Ashley also planning to run 30 miles on a treadmill at Priory Meadow on March 16.

Ashley added: “Christian is a delightful little boy who deserves the chance to live without cerebral palsy. After his surgery takes place, Christian will face a long journey of physiotherapy and rehabilitation and so he is only just starting out on a long road.”

Christian’s father, Max Fortunato, of Sunningdale Drive, St Leonards, said: “Ashley is a wonderful person to be doing something like this. Not only is he running the Half Marathon, but he will also be pushing Christian, and along Hastings Road that will be a real challenge. It is absolutely amazing.

“He really has been helping a lot and raising awareness about Christian’s condition and the operation and every Sunday they train on the seafront together.”

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