Sunderland youngster Hunter Maskell, born with rare form of cerebral palsy, defies odds and overcomes mobility issues to join local football team

A Sunderland youngster diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy has celebrated joining a local football team despite struggling with mobility issues.

Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:55 am

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Hunter Maskell, seven, from Ryhope, was diagnosed with left-sided cerebral palsy, Hemiplegia, at eleven months old.

He has difficulty using his left hand and arm, and struggles with general mobility.

Despite this, Hunter has been determined from a young age to show he won’t let the condition hold him back.

Hunter Maskell, in 2019

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He took his first steps at three years old, went on to complete the mini Great North Run – and now loves being part of his new football team, Sunderland West Youth Under 7s.

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Dad Gary Maskell, 32, said Hunter defied the odds and made everyone around him proud.

“It makes us really proud to see him doing this,” he said.

Hunter in the Sunderland West End Youth football kit

"He’s training two nights a week and will be playing on a weekend so it’s really impressive what he’s able to do.”

Hunter was honoured for his courage and determination at the Best of Wearside Awards in 2018, and has continued to show he won’t be stopped living life to the full.

A student at Hill View school, Hunter has always been a big football fan and loves his role in his new team and is going from strength to strength, making everyone around him incredibly proud.

Hemiplegia in children is a type of cerebral palsy that results from damage to the part of the brain which controls muscle movements.

It is a rare condition, affecting up to one child in 1,000, with about 80% of cases being congenital, and 20% acquired and also affecting each child differently.

When Hunter was first diagnosed with Hemiplegia, Gary and his mum Chloe Bell feared he may never walk.

But Hunter’s determination blew everyone away and he even went on to win the Best of Wearside Child of Courage award, in 2018.

After being diagnosed, Hunter started receiving physiotherapy from local charity Heel and Toe, based in Chester-le-Street, which made a huge difference on Hunter's life and mobility.

Heel and Toe was established in 2008, after a realisation that children’s therapy services were difficult to source in the North East.