Work is under way to adapt a disabled boy’s Sunderland home so that he can live a better life.
Ten-year-old Matthew Brettell, of Thorney Close, was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy three years ago, leaving him virtually wheelchair-bound, requiring assistance to get upstairs and to use the bathroom.
It is likely that by the time the keen Sunderland fan reaches 12 he will need his wheelchair at all times.
Now, city charity Hope 4 Kidz is helping the youngster and his family to raise more than £70,000 and appeal for gifts in kind so that a range of adaptations can be made to their home through the Matthew’s Milestone appeal.
Former Sunderland stars Bobby Kerr and Micky Horswill, both members of the club’s victorious 1973 FA Cup-winning side, were on hand to break ground as work got under way at the Brettell family home, in Twickenham Road.
The Brettells will be temporarily moving to nearby Springwell while the improvements are carried out.
Micky, now treasurer at Hope 4 Kidz, told the Echo: “It’s fantastic what is being done for Matthew.
“We’ve raised £37,000 for the appeal, but even with the Government grant included we’re £8,000 short.
“If people can give us money to meet that, then that would be amazing. What’s happened with him has been a real heartache for the family and this will really help.”
Bobby said: “It’s a shame that we have to raise money to help kids like Matthew, but the support of the Sunderland people has been magnificent.
“They haven’t sat back, they’ve supported Matthew and hopefully in the next six months everything will be finished and life will be a lot easier for him and his family.”
Matthew currently shares a bedroom with his brother Daniel, eight, but the room is not large enough to accommodate his electric wheelchair and the medical equipment he will need.
Work set to take place will include the demolition of the garage and the construction of a two-storey extension in order to give him his own bedroom and bathroom, a small wet room on the ground floor with an overhead tracking and hoist as well as a mini kitchen area.
The plans will also see the installation of a disabled lift platform, a ramp, widened doors and a small living area, which would double as overnight accommodation for nursing staff.
Sunderland-based Fitz Architects and Tunstall Construction Ltd have also come on board, offering their services free of charge.
Wearside businesses are also being asked to support the adaptations by donating gifts in kind such as building materials, labour, kitchen, bathroom, interior furnishings and decorating.
Matthew’s family have spoken of the “overwhelming” support they have received since starting his appeal.
His mum Maria, 36, married to his dad Gavin, 41, said: “It is a case of mixed emotions for us because we’re nervous – but really happy that the work is starting.
“The support we’ve had is just overwhelming.”
Maria, also mum to Naomi, 18, added: “We’re still hoping that people will come forward to provide help with the materials we need, and we’ll still be doing fund-raising too.
“Any help we get now will make it even more amazing than what the appeal has already achieved.”
Hope 4 Kidz’ Viv Watts said: “Matthew is a very bright, happy little boy who has been dealt a devastating blow to both him and his family.
“The family need help quickly so that Matthew can live as normal life as possible for as long as possible.
“Matthew needs to be living as part of his family, not segregated because of access problems.”
For further information about how to help Matthew, call Hope 4 Kidz on 534 7788, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.hope4kidz.org.uk.
Muscular Dystrophy (MD) is a group of inherited genetic conditions that over time causes the muscles to weaken.
It is a progressive condition with some types eventually affecting the heart or the muscles used for breathing, at which point the condition becomes life-threatening.
There is no cure for it.
Duchenne MD is one of the most common and severe forms and usually affects boys in early childhood.
It is caused by genetic mutations on the X chromosome.
These mutations prevent the body from producing a vital muscle protein, dystrophin, which is needed to build and repair muscle.
Most people with Duchenne muscular dystrophy are diagnosed by the age of five and use a wheelchair by the time they are 12.
As well as possible cures, research is also taking place to help improve the quality of life of boys with DMD to help lengthen their lives by improving treatment to address complications the condition brings.
Research is being carried out into medication to help delay the respiratory and cardiac decline to help those with the condition live longer.
Since Matthew’s family were aware that adaptations would have to be made to their home so that he could live a better life, a number of fund-raising events have been held to help out.
Last September, the landlord of The Mallard pub, in Seaham, Gordon Littlewood, led a team of bikers on a tour of England to generate cash for the plucky youngster.
Initially hoping to meet a £10,000 target, it raised an astonishing £16,000.