Firefighter walking 100km in 24 hours to help disabled six-year-old girl keep making strides

A firefighter from Market Drayton is setting out on a mammoth fundraiser - walking 100km in 24 hours to help a little girl walk again.

Amélie Holden, aged six
Amélie Holden, aged six

Ross Underwood, 39, a retained firefighter and gardener from Hodnet, near Market Drayton, is walking and running 100km on a treadmill at Hodnet Fire Station this weekend to help a friend's little girl achieve her dream of walking.

Six-year-old Amélie Holden has multiple disabilities which leave her unable to walk, talk or feed herself due to an undiagnosed syndrome.

Amélie is known as a SWAN (Syndrome Without A Name), she usually gets around the house by bunny-hopping and communicates by vocalising different noises.

Amélie was recently lent an Innowalk – a machine like a cross-trainer which allowed her to walk. During the six-week trial, she walked 118km – her personal best being 8km in just two hours. Even in such a short time, her physiotherapists saw a huge difference in her strength and she can now take a few steps holding just one hand.

Her family now want to buy Amélie her own Innowalk so that she can continue to improve both her strength and independence.

Ross Underwood

The special equipment costs around £28,000 and helps prevent muscle wastage. The family are nearly at their target and are hoping to reach it with Ross' help.

Father-of-two Ross is an old school friend of Amélie’s mum Ros.

Ross said: "I’ve seen a post pop up on Facebook about a sponsored walk Amélie was doing and sponsored her in the past. But when I saw something come up about the Innowalk the family are trying to raise money for, I knew I wanted to help more.

"I initially set a target of raising £500 which I’m delighted to have already passed, but obviously the more money we can raise, the quicker Amélie can get her Innowalk."

Ross will be undertaking his 100km journey on a treadmill at Hodnet fire station supported by his colleagues.

The event starts at 11am on Friday, September 24.

Mum Ros, 39, an accountant, said: "We’re really grateful to Ross for his support – we’re so close to achieving our fundraising target for the Innowalk now and Amélie can’t wait to get moving!

"However Amélie will also need ongoing therapy to enable her to gain better movement and more independence and any extra money raised will go towards this.

"Amélie loved using the Innowalk and achieved so much with it. We’re really keen to get her her own equipment so that she can continue to progress. It is expensive but it will grow with her so should last her forever."

The family is being supported by children’s charity Tree of Hope which helps families fundraise for children like Amélie with healthcare needs and provides charity status to benefit from gift aid, corporate support whilst also providing donor reassurance.

Gill Gibb, Tree of Hope CEO added: "We’re delighted to be helping the Holden family with fundraising for Amélie – it’s marvellous to see how well supported they are by their friends and community."

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