Now an annual fundraising event, Scooter Grannies was started by Darren in 2016 to fund specialised physiotherapy for his daughter Freya, who was born with two holes in her heart and also has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
Inspired to do something different, Darren decided he and a group of friends would take on long-distance journeys on kids’ scooters whilst dressed as grannies, a detail suggested by his 80-year-old friend Olive.
Since then, the Scooter Grannies have gone from Darren and Freya’s hometown of Irlam to Blackpool, from Irlam to Chester, from Huddersfield to Irlam, and from Anfield to Old Trafford, with their most recent effort in June seeing them scoot from Preston to Blackpool.
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“I can’t say it went smoothly!” says Darren, 50. “We had nine grannies, five stitches, three punctures, and the heavens opened when we got to Blackpool, so it was eventful to say the least! It was good though, all great fun. Plus, you can’t have a good story without a few scars!
“I went into the back of one of the other grannies and ripped open my ankle on the studs of the rear tyre,” he adds, laughing. “It happened halfway through, so I plodded on and finished the event and went to A&E the next day. It was very sore - I’m in more pain now than when I was doing it!”
Freya’s physiotherapy, which costs almost £1,000 per month, isn’t available on the NHS, while Darren is also keen to offer Freya - now almost 12 - more independence by getting her an electric wheelchair, which can cost up to £20,000. On top of that, Covid had a severe impact, too.
“We did a socially-distanced event last year, but we had to miss the year before, which was tough fundraising-wise because Freya’s future relies heavily on charity and the general public,” explains Darren. “Everyone at this one said how much they’d missed it because we always have such a great time whilst raising money for a really good cause.
“It’s overwhelming knowing everyone’s thinking about Freya and keeping her close to their hearts,” he adds. “She’s recovered from the double hip reconstruction surgery she had last year and is due to have the plates removed this October. I’m not looking forward to that; you never want to see anyone go through the pain she’s had to go through.
“This will be the sixth major operation she’s had in her little life and she still puts adults to shame with her positive attitude, never mind other children. Overall, she’s doing great, it’s me that’s buggered! Don’t get me wrong, she has her moments like any other child her age and she’s 12 going on 21, so she’s got an attitude!
“It’s all about helping her have more independence now. Not having that mobility and freedom is restricting her and it must be frustrating. But there’s a cost, which is where the fundraising comes in and I just want to really thank the local community, friends, family, and the businesses who sponsor us.”
To donate, go to www.treeofhope.org.uk/freyaslittlelegs/