Why sports mad Cavan still needs your help to take his first steps

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A Belfast mum has spoken of being “truly humbled” by the efforts of kind-hearted local sports personalities in taking part in what she hopes is the final push of a relentless fundraising drive to secure life changing surgery for her three-year-old son.

Former News Letter journalist Emma Deighan, together with toddler Cavan’s father Diarmuid, have been instrumental in raising around £60,000 to pay for pioneering surgery in the USA which would enable him to finally be able to walk.

Their adorable son was just 18 months old when he was diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy known as spastic diplegia, which causes muscle tightness in his legs, affecting his ability to walk.

Last October they set up a charity called Cavan’s First Steps, with the aim of raising the necessary £80,000 to cover costs of the operation, known as Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy, which can be performed at St Louis Children’s Hospital in Missouri.

They just need to find another £20,000 to make their dream a reality.

And in two weeks’ time, the couple will be pinning their hopes of making up the difference on two final events scheduled to take place in Belfast; Cavan’s First Steps - The Ball, on Saturday June 4, and the first ever Belfast Peace Wall walk, Walk the Walls for Cavan, on June 5.

This three mike trek has been organised by global youth organisation Active Communities Network, and supported by rugby star Tommy Bowe, and will see young people from both sides of the community take part. Also lending their support are the Belfast Giants, who took little Cavan on a glide around the ice rink at the SSE Arena earlier this year.

“To have these sporting personalities back our campaign has been truly humbling,” Emma, 37, said. “When I first heard of the surgery, I knew we couldn’t bypass it and I think every parent in our position would do the same.

“Cavan has just turned three and he is passionate about every sport he is introduced to. He wants so much to be on his feet. He watched 45 minutes of the London Marathon on television and now gets us to hold him by the waist to help him run.

“He’s also very passionate about rugby and ice hockey and more recently, boxing because he’s met these sporting stars along his wee journey.”

She continued: “If there’s a possibility to get Cavan on his feet then we have to pursue it, but we had no idea how our campaign would go and never did we believe we would have Tommy Bowe, The Belfast Giants and sportspersons who Cavan looks up to backing us.

“Walk the Walls is such a poignant event, and to think that our three-year-old has the ability to bring young people from across the community together is so heartwarming. To us, Cavan is a real wee inspiration as too are these young people who are fighting our corner.”

The Walk will be preceded by a glamorous Ball, set to take place at the Devenish Ballroom in Finaghy, where again a line up of local celebrities will be getting involved, including DJ Pete Snodden and broadcaster Claire McCollum.

There’ll also be entertainment from Britain’s Got Talent’s Jordan O’Keefe, and patrons will be able to enjoy a three course meal with cocktail reception, and a host of amazing prizes up for grabs.

Emma admitted that she and Diarmuid have been “completely overwhelmed” by the support the public has shown over the past seven months, and never expected that they would be so close to their target.

And they are appealing for a final time to the generosity of the people of Northern Ireland to get involved and help them reach the finish line, and their long sought after goal.

“We want everyone to know that these events are open to anyone, whether we’ve had the pleasure of meeting you or not. If you want to help, come out for the night or join us on the walk. It’s you who can help take on the final hurdle.”

*To book your tickets to Cavan’s First Steps - The Ball, contact the Devenish on 02890 301154 or email events@devenishcomplex.com. They cost £50 per person.

You can also book online (with a small booking fee) at https://getinvited.to/cavansfirststeps/cavans-first-steps-the-ball/

For more information about Cavan’s daily struggle with cerebral palsy and how you can help him walk visit Facebook.com/cavansfirststeps