A disabled girl silenced after thieves stole her communication device has been backed by string of celebrities in a campaign to get her voice back – including a £1,000 gift from GAZZA.
Miya Thirlby, 16, is unable to communicate with her family – including her identical twin – since cruel thieves snatched the vital computerised talking aid from her parents’ car.
The teen was born with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and grew up without a voice.
But that all changed 18 months ago following a £5,700 fund raising campaign to buy a pioneering piece of equipment which enables Miya to ‘talk’ by looking at icons on a screen.
A desperate hunt has been launched to find the kit and her dad Paul Johnson posted an appeal on social media under the hashtag ‘get Miya’s voice back’ – and has been stunned by the response.
He wrote: “My daughter had her speech machine stolen out of the car.
“It’s her only way of communicating with us. It was very pricey so it can’t be easily replaced. Poor girl now can’t speak to us again!! #getmiyasvoiceback.”
Footballing legend Paul Gascoigne was among a host of celebrities to respond and – pledging £1,000 towards a new device.
He tweeted: “I’ll donate a £1000 now towards a new one for ya, get it touch wiv us Love GAZZA xxxx”
Other celebrities to back Miya’s cause included Alan Shearer, Piers Morgan and French and Saunders.
Shearer wrote: “Come on man. Do the decent thing and please somehow get the machine back to this little girl.”
The family say they are overwhelmed by the response following the theft from the VW vehicle in Plymouth, Devon, between January 8 and 9.
Miya’s mum, Kerrie Thirlby, 38, of Plymouth, said: “Lots of celebs are re-tweeting my partners tweet, Piers Morgan, French and Saunders have re-tweeted too.
“We are in shock, it’s crazy but amazing to see how caring people are.
“Paul is a huge Alan Shearer fan, he’s a Geordie. He’s amazed and Alan messaged him too asking Paul to keep him updated.”
Kerrie, a mother of four, said there has been no update from the police regarding the £5,700 pound device.
She added: “I’m not holding out much hope they’re going to be the kind of people that have a conscience.”
She said they felt awful because other people paid for the £5,700 Liberator Accent 1400 device and they are desperate to get it back.
She added: “My biggest concern is that if the software is wiped as it’s expensive and personalised to Miya.
“The main reason we got it in the first place was because she has a go on one at a speaking convention at her school and she picked it up very quickly.
“She absolutely loves it, it also entertains her as she can play games on it with her eyes.”
Kerrie said the device was in a laptop bag and she believes the person who took the item may dispose of it because it is not what they thought it was.
Paul, a 40-year-old business analyst, said: “I want to get the word out to get it back.
“Miya cannot talk but I get the feeling she knows it has gone, she uses it every day.
“It will be upsetting for her.”
Miya is wheelchair bound, tube-fed and constantly watching others live their lives. She weighs only three and a half stone.
Her device works via infrared so Miya is able to look at phrases and pictures on the machine and form sentences via her eyes.
Her eyes activate a cursor on the screen, allowing her to select icons which then trigger the machine to reveal how she feels – via an uncanny human voice.
The crowdfunding appeal for Miya to buy a replacement machine has already smashed its target following the backing of several celebrities – in less than 24 hours.
The appeal #getmiyasvoiceback was started by twitter user Jamie Twite and has so far raised £7,300 – well over the £6000 originally aimed for.
Miya’s dad Paul Johnson said: “Thank you to everyone who has donated, no matter how big or small.
“The thoughtfulness of everyone has been overwhelming.”
The donation target has now been revised to £10,000 and Mr Johnson added that any money left over will be donated to Children’s Hospice South West.