Former Chelsea and Leeds owner Ken Bates donates £10,000 to help pay for surgery so disabled toddler can play football without his walking frame
Ex-Chelsea and Leeds owner Ken Bates may have helped a young boy’s dreams come true after donating £10,000 to pay for life-changing surgery.
Leo Stott, who suffers with cerebral palsy and cannot walk unaided, has always wanted to play football without a walking frame.
Hundreds of people donated money to pay for him to have a life-changing operation, with Bates pledging a sizeable chunk of the £45,000 needed.
Leo, two, loves football and, his coach says, plays just as well as other boys his age.
He was desperate to do without his frame, so his family set out to raise £45,000 for a selective dorsal rhizotomy, a surgery not generally available on the NHS.
Just 48 hours after his story appeared in last Saturday’s Mail, his mother Cara Oldham had raised more than enough to book Leo’s operation at Leeds Hospital.
She thanked all those who gave via www.justgiving.com/leosdreamtowalk, where the family are now taking donations to pay for ongoing care.
She said: ‘I am astonished, amazed and humbled that strangers can be so kind.’
Bates, 82, was born with a club foot but went on to play for Arsenal juniors.
He phoned Miss Oldham to say he wanted to help. The dental nurse said: ‘I just couldn’t believe it and kept asking him, ‘Are you sure?’
‘It was so emotional. After I put the phone down I cried, then my mum cried and everyone in the room started crying. It was so moving. It has restored my faith. All I can say is wow.
‘When his father and I sat Leo down and told him we had enough money now he said that was very good because he didn’t want his legs to hurt anymore.’
Monaco-based Bates, who is known in the football world for his abrasive style and nicknamed ‘cuddly Ken’, told the Mail it is ‘ridiculous’ the type of surgery Leo needs is not automatically funded on the NHS, especially when breast enlargement and reduction operations are.
‘Cuddly’: Bates, the former chairman of Chelsea, who played football after being born with a club foot
‘This little kid deserves all the help he can get,’ he said. ‘Leo has been raised to believe he can do anything and I believe he absolutely can.’
Leo, from Oldham, has been accepted for pioneering surgery at Leeds Hospital. The operation – a selective dorsal rhizotomy (sdr) – was not funded by the NHS when the family began fund-raising earlier this year.
The procedure would release tension in his legs, allowing him to undergo more intensive physiotherapy to let him walk unaided.
Just weeks ago the NHS announced SDR would be available to a limited number of children in a trial. But with just five hospitals signed up to the pilot scheme to treat 120 children a year, Miss Oldham was warned Leo would face a lengthy wait to learn if he was eligible or not.
Miss Oldham, who can now book the operation, thanked ‘every single person’ who donated ‘because they have helped to change my son’s life’.
‘We’ve worked so hard to raise money and had such brilliant support from family and friends, but to see it start to climb so quickly after sharing our story was incredible,’ she said.
‘I am astonished, amazed and humbled that complete strangers can be so kind. Words cannot express the gratitude I feel. The relief I feel knowing my son can now have the operation is the best feeling in the world.’
Leo was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at 18 months old. But despite being unable to stand or walk unaided he loved watching football with his father Sam Stott, 23, a contract manager.
Leo stood for the first time shortly before turning two thanks to a walking frame and was soon dribbling his ball. He attends weekly toddler training sessions at his local club.
Miss Oldham said: ‘Nobody could believe how well he could tackle, pass and shoot with his frame. His face lit up with a ball at his feet. But all he really wanted was to be able to play like all his friends without his frame.’
She has now raised their fundraising target to £55,000 to help pay for further care after the operation.