Lancaster twins Katie and Emma Sutcliffe are heading to America this summer for life-changing surgery after their appeal hit its £85,000 target.
The 16-year-olds, who suffer from spastic diplegic cerebral palsy and need wheelchairs to get around, reached their goal in just nine months – thanks to the generosity of many people in the Lancaster district.
From sponsored swims and weight loss to cake sales and gruelling challenges, Lancaster residents have got behind the twins and their wish to walk.
Backed by the Guardian, Katie and Emma and their family launched the Twins Appeal last July in a bid to raise £85,000 to pay for pioneering treatment in America which could see the girls walk unaided for the first time.
And now their dream will come true.
The family has reached its target, meaning the twins can travel to Missouri this summer to undergo selective dorsal rhizotomy treatment.
With some fundraising events still to be held, any further money raised will go towards extra treatment which has been recommended by Dr Park from St Louis Children’s Hospital, Missouri, to lengthen the tendons in the twins’ legs which will further improve their mobility.
“It’s been phenomenal, the girls’ mum Caroline, 48, said. “Our target was £85,000 and we have achieved that in a very short space of time, thanks to family, friends and the wonderful people of Lancaster and beyond!
“We are so grateful for what everyone has done. I can’t thank everyone enough. It’s just fantastic!
“To everyone who supported us, either big or small, we are eternally grateful.
“When we started the fundraising last year we didn’t really believe we would have achieved our goal in such a short space of time.
“It’s been unbelievable.
“We really appreciate what people have done for us, it’s very touching.
“Some donations came from people we don’t even know.”
The appeal was supported by Lancaster MP Eric Ollerenshaw and Prime Minister David Cameron also added his backing.
Emma said: “I am trying not to think about the surgery until we get there.
“Thanks to everybody who supported us, everyone has been so nice and helpful.
“People have stopped us in the street. The whole of Lancaster got behind us.”
And Katie added: “I won’t believe it’s real until we get there.
“We have met some lovely people along the way.
“It shows that if you really want something enough, you can make a difference.”
Katie and Emma will head out to America with Caroline and their dad Wayne in July – after sitting their GCSEs at Our Lady’s Catholic College – and are expected to stay for five weeks.
They hope to have recovered from the surgery in time to start their A-levels in September, although there will be a lot of hard work for the girls to do, to build up the strength in their legs by way of physiotherapy.
Katie will be returning to Our Lady’s, while Emma will be heading to Ripley St Thomas CE Academy.
Meanwhile, fundraising continues on Saturday when Dalton girl group will be singing outside Boots in St Nicholas Arcades, Lancaster, from noon, as they did last Saturday for the appeal.
Caroline said: “I am so grateful to Dalton, who have supported the appeal from the start, and urge everyone to go along to see them on Saturday – they are a fabulous girl group!”
Caroline’s relative Shaun Donaghey and the Donaghey family also recently boosted the funds by donating £200, and Derek Marchment from the John O’Gaunt Liberal Club in Prospect Street kindly raised a further £400 for the girls.
Again the family want to express their thanks to the Donagheys and to the Liberal Club for their continued support.