Friends of a paralysed 16-year-old will take to the pitch and raise funds to help the football fan walk again.
Ben Conolly, a pupil at Sheldon School in Chippenham, has been in Bristol Children’s Hospital since October last year, when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia a week before his birthday.
After a procedure to prepare him for chemotherapy, he awoke to find he had no feeling from the chest down.
An MRI scan confirmed that a tumour was crushing his spinal cord and leading to the loss of sensation.
Despite its prompt removal by neurosurgeons, six months on Ben has not regained any feeling below his chest and now faces his life in a wheelchair.
He and his family hope that, by stimulating nerve endings and muscles, his brain and spinal column can be retrained to prompt movement.
Such cutting-edge rehabilitation is available at a private centre in Watford, but costs £60 an hour. Ben will need up to four hours a week for an unknown period of time.
To help towards these costs, family friend Simon Bray has organised a football match at the Corsham Town grounds next Tuesday, April 22, with tickets priced at £5.
Three of Ben’s friends will be teaming up with some of Corsham Youth FC to play against Swindon Town Youth FC at 7.30pm.
Mr Bray, who lives in Corsham, said: “We are doing it to support a family that has been through hell and back. Ben’s a normal boy and was enjoying all those things that 15 and 16-year-olds love to do: mountain biking, photography, hanging out with his friends and generally enjoying life.
“He has been so brave and has accepted his paralysis remarkably maturely for such tender years.
“If he can recover all or even some of his mobility, then I think it is worth a shot. Please support me in helping his parents pull together enough money to help Ben achieve his potential in life.”
There will also be an auction on the evening, with lots including a DC40 Dyson, a pair of signed soccer boots from Arsenal’s Theo Wallcott and tickets to see Russell Howard at Bristol Hippodrome.
Earlier this year, Ben was bowled over by a surprise visit in hospital from the comedian.
He was invited by 13-year-old Deryn Blackwell, who became friends with Ben while sharing a ward in Bristol, and last month joined his comedy hero on stage at the O2.
Ben’s mum, Suzi Conolly, 46, said: “Ben was absolutely delighted to see Russell Howard. He had no idea he was coming.
“He’s still positive. We were able to bring him home for the first time for Sunday lunch at the weekend and he loved seeing his friends and the cats.”