THE Echo campaign that helped a Wearside schoolboy to walk has been chosen as one of the best in Britain.
Six-year-old Liam Straughan, from Houghton, developed cerebral palsy after being born 10 weeks early and had to use a walking frame and wear leg splints.
He faced being confined to a wheelchair by the time he was a teenager, until Echo readers stepped in and raised the £25,000 needed for a life-changing operation. One anonymous donor alone contributed £20,000.
Now our campaign has been chosen as one of a showcase of 30 of the strongest editorial campaigns across the UK unveiled today for the launch of Local Newspaper Week.
Readers can vote online for the best campaign and the winner will be announced at the Society of Editors Regional Press Awards in London on May 16.
Echo editor John Szymanski said: “Local newspapers are an integral part of the communities they serve and the Echo holds a very special place in the hearts of the people of Sunderland.
“We never cease to be amazed and humbled by how passionate our readers are about the campaigns we run.
“Whether it be raising the money to help Liam walk, supporting the Grace House Children’s Hospice appeal or donating toys by the sackful to our Christmas appeal, they never let us down.”
When parents Rachel and Neil Straughan set out to raise the £25,000 they needed to pay for a life-changing operation for son Liam, they never dreamed of the help they would get from our readers.
“We were over the moon when the Echo got in touch and the response we get was overwhelming. To get to where we needed to be within a few weeks was absolutely unreal.”
The campaign, which ran in July, reached its target in less than a week, with one anonymous donor chipping in an amazing £20,000.
Liam underwent his operation at the end of last year and his parents are delighted with his progress.
“He is doing great,” said Rachel.
“It is absolutely fantastic – he hardly uses his walker at all any more.”
A recent Newspaper Society’s study showed more than half of all respondents believe local papers to be the best medium for standing up for people in the local area, ahead of BBC local radio and any other commercial media.
Many followed or supported editorial campaigns in their local papers or online, with 42 per cent cutting out or showing an article to someone else.
Nearly a third of local newspaper readers or website visitors shared, forwarded or re-tweeted stories and posted comments on those stories online.
Making a Difference highlights the role of local media – in print, online, on mobile and social media – to stand up for their readers and make a difference to their lives through campaigning, investigative journalism and news reporting – whether it’s raising funds for a life-saving operation, keeping a day centre open, campaigning for justice or cleaning up a local park.