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Little Ollie Petherick, who was born with a rare chromosome defect, may never learn to walk or talk but his beaming smile is enough to melt anyone’s heart.
Ollie, two, of Cromwell Road, Devizes, suffers from Angelman syndrome. He made a dramatic appearance into the world when he was born at home just as paramedics arrived.
But his parents Iain Petherick and Annie Campbell did not know there was anything wrong with their younger son until he was about six months old and he was diagnosed with the rare condition, which has the side effect of making sufferers smile and laugh a lot.
As the family were trying to come to terms with the devastating diagnosis they were put in touch with Devizes Opportunity Centre and it has helped transform all of their lives.
Mr Petherick, a wine manager at Morrisons in Devizes, said: “I really don’t know what we would have done without the opportunity centre. They are absolutely fantastic for us and for Ollie.
"Everyone there really cares and is very knowledgeable.
“But they are facing funding cuts and it is vital that people realise the work that goes on and helps with fundraising if at all possible.
“You can be sure that every penny raised will go to the work of the centre.”
Ollie’s mum said she did not start to worry about her son until he was six months old.
She said: “When he was born he didn’t feed very well and he had jaundice but I didn’t really think there was anything seriously wrong until a friend suggested he might be blind.
“He was tested and it turned out that it was a neurological problem that was stopping him from following anything with his eyes.”
Ollie then went through a number of different tests and was finally diagnosed with Angleman syndrome which is a rate genetic condition only affecting about 1,000 people in the UK.
One of the telltale signs of the syndrome is that sufferers have a happy demeanour and so are usually smiling or laughing.
As soon as he was diagnosed, Ollie’s parents were put in touch with Devizes Opportunity Centre and it has helped both them and Ollie to cope.
The family, who also have an elder son Freddie, three, have to cope with Ollie sleeping very little and having to be watched all the time. He also suffers from epilepsy.
Ms Campbell, who used to work at the petrol station in London Road, Devizes, said: “When you go to the opportunity centre you don’t even have to say you are having a bad day, they just know straightaway and there is always someone to talk to who understands.
“It is also great that all the experts to do with physiotherapy, speech and development are under one roof and know all of the background so you don’t have to keep explaining to lots of different people.
“We don’t know if Ollie will ever walk or talk but he is a beautiful little boy and the opportunity centre is making sure he reaches his full potential at this vital early stage in his life.”
She is doing her bit to raise funds by holding a Facebook auction and Mr Petherick is on the centre’s committee.
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