This child’s tricycle is like most others, with one important difference. It could change someone’s life.
Alyssa Mae, her 2 sisters and her parents, Zoe and Colin, are like most other families in Portsmouth. Zoe has a part time job at Cottage Grove School and Colin works at Elite Garages. Like many – if not most – Pompey families, they are feeling the pinch of the economic crisis and the impact of government policy. They work hard to make ends meet as they provide the best life they can for their children in difficult times.
Alyssa and her family live next door to me and I’m lucky enough to call them my friends, and to be part of their daily life as one of the bravest and most loving families I’ve ever known. Zoe and Colin are great neighbours, and always there to lend a helping hand or a smile of encouragement as we cross paths each day.
But there’s an extra challenge for Alyssa and her family.
They’re trying to maintain a normal life in almost unique circumstances, because at only 8 years old, Alyssa Mae is one of just 3 people in the world with a rare condition – a chromosome translocation, which refers to an unusual arrangement of chromosomes. In Alyssa’s case, this has left her with some severe problems, including global development delay, which means that she has problems with learning to walk, talk, and develop movement skills, for example. Sadly, she also has epilepsy and congenital heart disease.
As their neighbour, I’ve watched Zoe and Colin live a daily rollercoaster, with major heart surgery and regular trips to hospitals, doctors and specialists. The family have taken all this in their stride, focusing only on making each day the best possible day for Alyssa and her sisters. Alyssa Mae is a happy, bright little girl, who recently won the Primary Achiever Award at Mary Rose Academy (see above).
However, recently Colin also took ill, suffering with severe respiratory difficulties that affected his ability to drive. Shortly after, Alyssa was rushed to Southampton General Hospital with a urine infection that escalated into suspected meningitis and sepsis and Zoe went with her.
Zoe told me, ‘It has had a huge impact on Alyssa’s two sisters, one of whom has learning difficulties, because not only did they have to worry about me not being there and Alyssa being so ill, they were also worried about their dad.’
Alyssa was eventually transferred to QA Hospital and discharged after 3 weeks’ treatment, but in a twist of fate, as Alyssa came home, Colin was admitted to hospital as a result of the problems he was having breathing.
‘The past few months have certainly been a struggle,’ said Zoe, as she told me about unexpected bills, struggles with transport and Colin continuing to be off work as he undergoes tests, including a CT and heart scan.
‘All these costs are mounting up and putting a further strain on our family.’
It was at this point that I decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign on Go Fund Me, with the aim of easing the financial burden on the family at a difficult time.
Click on the picture to make a contribution towards Alyssa’s bike.
Sadly, shortly after returning home, Alyssa was once more in and out of hospitals in Portsmouth and Southampton and that’s where Zoe was when I sent her a message to tell her that in just a few days we had raised £120 on the crowdfunder.
She answered, ‘I think it’s amazing that people care enough to donate. It’s great to see the love people have.’
That’s when I decided to increase the amount I was hoping to raise to £2000. I wanted to not only ease the current financial problems that the family were facing, but to raise enough funds for the family to be able to do something really nice for Alyssa.
When I told Zoe, she couldn’t believe it.
‘That’s a crazy amount!’ she told me, and then she wrote, ‘I could get Alyssa a trike to ride!’
It’s been almost a month since we launched the Go Fund Me campaign and we’ve reached £330 of our target with the help of fewer than 20 generous donors. A group of local ladies held a fundraiser for Alyssa and raised £90, and an anonymous donor recently gave £50.
Zoe, Colin and the family are overwhelmed by the generosity and support of people they’ve never even met, including over 230 people who, although unable to donate, have shared the campaign and helped us to spread the word.
I know there’s a lot of unrest and insecurity for everyone in the UK and in the world right now. These are difficult times and there are so many worthy causes competing for our attention. Of course, I’d like you to donate but I know not everyone can in a time when most of us are conscious of every penny we’re spending.
So if you can’t donate, don’t worry because you can still help. We’d love to get more people involved in fundraising for Alyssa, even small donations generated by holding a coffee morning or a play date and charging for tea and coffee, for instance, or organising a jumble sale.
The money we’re raising not only makes a massive difference to this unique and special family, but the shares on social media and comments from people wishing the family well help keep their spirits up in some truly difficult moments. That’s one of the amazing things about community.
If you’d like to get involved in helping to raise money for the family, you can:
Donate – any small amount you can afford will make a big difference
Organise an event or a collection in your workplace or your community
Help us spread the word – keep the campaign moving and share widely with your friends, family and colleagues.
I’d like to thank everyone who has donated so far and to thank you, right now, for taking the time to read this. It’s amazing to know that even in the most challenging times, Pompey’s community spirit is alive and well.
Main image of a Rehatri rear steer 20 inch Tricycle.
All other images by Zoe England