Campaign approaches halfway milestone in a matter of weeks

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A CAMPAIGN to raise more than £50,000 to help local boy Riley Murray walk for the first time is nearing its halfway mark just a few weeks after being launched.

The fund-raising effort, Riley’s First Steps, came significantly closer to the milestone at the weekend after a successful race night raised more than £3,000.

Riley’s parents, Dale and Trudy, launched the campaign in April and expected to take “a year or two” to reach the target, which will allow them to take six-year-old Riley, who has cerebral palsy, to the St Louis Children’s Hospital for an operation which could change his life.

They are now hopeful that they may be able to make the trip towards the end of this year.

The operation, a selective dorsal rhizotomy, involves identifying and cutting nerve roots within Riley’s spine that cause his spasticity resulting in smoother, freer movements and could give him a more independent life.

Dale and Trudy set the figure of £55,000 to cover the cost of the surgery, physiotherapy and four or five weeks’ accommodation for themselves and daughter Leyla.

Friday’s event in the Neptune Bar, organised by family friends Fiona Thompson and Alan Brett, was attended by around 60 people but much of the fund-raising went on behind the scenes before the night.

Trudy this week said the family had been “overwhelmed” by the response.

She said: “Fiona got the ball rolling as soon as we heard Riley had been accepted for the operation and this is down to the massive effort she and Alan have put in and a lot of fund-raising went on before the night, with bonus balls and raffle tickets sold as well as by companies who sponsored the races.”

The couple began fund-raising themselves immediately and have been encouraged by the many local donations they have received, but their efforts were further boosted recently by a “very generous donation” from Dale’s employers, National Oilwell Varco which took the total to £21,000.

Trudy said: “From the time I was expecting and had complications, they have been very supportive in giving Dale time off and in understanding the situation.

“We’ve been overwhelmed. We thought it would be a year or two years into the fund-raising before we got close, the figure just seemed so high we couldn’t imagine getting there but everyone has been so generous and we still have so many events to take place.

“Riley’s school, Lochside, also held a dress-as-you-please day on Friday, with a Stars and Stripes theme which Riley chose himself but we don’t have a total for that yet.

“With all the events that are taking place we think it might be possible to go to America nearer the end of the year.”

Future fund-raising events include a family fun day at Roselea’s Broomfield ground next Sunday, July 24; local man Rab Young is undertaking a punishing cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats which he intends to complete in six days, between August 8 and 15; Kim Emerson and Emma Rose, work colleagues of Dale, intend to skydive in tandem on August 20 while a week later Alan Forfar, John Roy and Dave Douglas will take part in the Highland Perthshire Cycle Challenge.

Trudy said: “Wartsila Electrical and Automation Services have also approached us asking if they can do their annual 14-mile cycle run for Riley.

“Many others have donated and intend to donate money from birthday parties etc as they’ve asked for donations instead of presents.”

In August there will also be a sponsored 144-mile cycle from Montrose to the base of Ben Nevis before the group of six riders will be joined by friends to climb the 4,409-foot mountain itself, all of which will be done over three days. The fund-raiser will realise money for both Riley and local lad Rhys Allan, who also has cerebral palsy.

Dale and Trudy have started their own Facebook page - Riley’s First Steps - to raise awareness of the campaign.