The parents of a toddler who can’t walk are fundraising £50,000 – to fulfill her dream of dancing like her favourite ballerina.
Esme Kelly, two, has cerebral palsy and walks with the assistance of a frame.
Parents Charlotte, 40, and Stephen, 41, hope to afford life-changing surgery which is unavailable on the NHS.
Esme was born five weeks early and later received the diagnosis when they noticed her physical traits was developing slowly.
Her condition – spastic diplegia cerebral palsy – means she suffers with constant leg pain due to bone deformities and stunted muscle growth.
It is incurable but the operation – which involves cutting damaged nerves in the lower spine – would reduce stiffness and allow Esme freedom to walk.
Her dream is to dance like the characters in children’s musical Ballerina, the story of an 11-year-old French girl who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer but lacks formal training.
Older sister Amelie, seven, is a gymnast who has taught Esme how to do a plié – a basic ballet move which involves standing on her tiptoes with her walker.
Charlotte, a school admissions officer, said: “Esme has learned how to do a plié with her walker and she’d love to do gymnastics and climbing on the furniture like Amelie.
“Esme is very musical and has been singing along to Frozen but loves the film Ballerina.
“Her dream is to practice ballet and having the operation would help her achieve it.
“She loves soft play and going to the farm and doesn’t let the condition hold her back but it will get harder as she ages.
“Amelie goes to a small community school and lots of he peers have younger siblings who already know Esme and will look after her when she reaches school age.
“It’s great because she has a network of friends.
“Esme goes swimming every Monday with disabled children and instructors struggle to see any sign of disability when she’s in the water – she’s very capable.”
Esme was born at 35 weeks and spent 11 days under observation in a specialist care unit with no health problems.
But Charlotte and Stephen, who works for construction giant Amey, noticed she wasn’t developing like Amelia.
They were told she had cerebral palsy just before Christmas 2016 – which was a “devastating shock” the family.
Charlotte added: “This isn’t the life Esme was destined for – she wants to walk and we will do all we can to help her.
“It’s had a massive impact on the family. We never expected to be faced with this. You never do.
“But we know we have to be strong for our little girl to have the best possible life.
“We have to do daily stretches to help with her muscles. Where she can not move freely we have to carry her a lot of the time.
“You learn that most things now will take extra time.”
The life-changing surgical procedure, called selective dorsal rhizotomy, is Esme’s best chance of independence and the online fundraiser has reached £6,000 so far.
The family, who live in Swindon, Wilts., are holding three other fundraisers – a skydive in July, a family fun day in June and dad Stephen is tackling the Three Peaks Challenge in August.
To donate: www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/just4children/stepsforesme.