Toddler Hunter Maskell has began the mountainous task of learning to walk after taking his first steps following a stroke.
The two-year-old, from Ryhope, has cerebral palsy and has just begun to stand on his own two feet independently thanks to the help of Heel and Toe.
The charity, which works across the region, has released a video showing Hunter walking on a treadmill as he and his helper march to the sound of The Grand Old Duke of York.
His mum Chloe Bell, 25, and her mum Carol Bell, 54, were on hand to witness those initial first tentative steps and are delighted as his confidence and strength grows thanks to Heel and Toe’s help.
Chloe and partner Gary Maskell, 27, a doghandler for Taurus Security, feared it was a moment they would never see after he was diagnosed with the condition when he was 11-months-old.
The stroke has left Hunter, who goes to Busy Bees nursery in Ryhope, with a weakness down one side.
Me and my mum were in tears when he did it and he looked at us as if to say ‘what is it’?Chloe Bell
Chloe, who works in customer services for Boldon-based EC Outsourcing, said: “It’s the best ever feeling.
“He’s taken more steps as well.
“He can walk from sofa to sofa which is great.
“It’s a massive milestone he has achieved.
“Hunter had a stroke and his balance has been affected, so taking his first steps is a really massive thing.
“He acts like he has done it forever.
“Me and my mum were in tears when he did it and he looked at us as if to say ‘what is it’?”
Hunter has been helped by Heel and Toe physiotherapist Jo Parsons, with the sessions helping to train his left side of his brain to compensate for the right.
He had been keeping his left arm in a fist, but is now able to open it and lift his arms above his head.
Chloe added: “He loves his sessions and Jo the physio is really good with him.
“He has only been going to Heel and Toe for a year but the change in him has been massive.”
The family is backing Chester-le-Street-based Heel and Toe’s Footprints Appeal to raise £280,000 to transform a second building in Perkinsville, where it will run hydrotherapy courses and sessions with their relatives, which will be unique to the region.
It will also house therapy rooms, a trampoline, a charity shop and accommodation for families from outside of the region at reduced rates.
Heel and Toe already offers intensive physiotherapy, speech and language, occupational therapy, Special Educational Needs tutoring (SEN) and outreach services.
Paul Gilsenan, chairman of Heel and Toe, said: “The therapy centre will make a huge difference to the lives of the children and young people we work with as the support we are able to give to families can be a lifeline during difficult times.”
It has received donations totalling £71,000 from Kavli Trust, Bradley Hall Surveyors and private funders so far.
The campaign can be followed via the charity’s Facebook page and more information is available by calling (0191) 386 8606 or http://www.heelandtoe.org.uk.