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A ‘feisty and determined’ teenager with cerebral palsy has received a new walker to give her as much freedom as possible and improve her mobility – which will mean less time in hospital and away from her family.

Sophie Pritchett, aged 13, from the town of Ferndown in Dorset particularly struggles with her hands and feet because of the condition, but she has been desperate to be upright and walking. She has had numerous surgeries for dislocations of both hips, has a twisted curvature of the spine and chronic lung disease which means she is particularly prone to infection.

Unable to sit or weight bear without support, Sophie uses both powered and manual wheelchairs and although she had a walker which enabled her to be on her feet as much as possible both at home and at school, she has outgrown this. With no funding available for the £2,726 equipment from their local statutory services her family turned to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children – the UK’s largest charitable provider of essential paediatric equipment to meet the specialist needs of children with disabilities and terminal illness.

Although Sophie will mostly use her new equipment at school, she will also use it at the home she shares with mum Sharon, dad Ian, 21-year-old sister Emily and her brother Oliver, aged 18.
Mum Sharon says although they meet all of her care needs, Sophie wants to do everything she possibly can for herself and will have a go at most things, including feeding herself with cutlery and writing with the aid of a computer.

“Sophie knows her own mind and loves life, she is very feisty and determined and desperately wants to be up on her feet. Even though her old walker was too small, we were still trying to use it for about 30 minutes a day so she could still get some of the benefits. For Sophie a new walker means freedom.

“It means she can change positions, see life at a different level and go out on her own two feet. At school I do think using the walker makes a difference to how others view her; people respond differently if she’s upright,” said Sharon.

An important aspect of the walker is also the health benefits of being on her feet. Walking everyday aids digestion, strengthens her muscles and improves the function of all her organs. Vitally for Sophie and her family being upright also keeps her hip joints moving – which will keep her out of hospital and hopefully prevent further surgeries.

Sharon added: “The walker will be a real boost to her self-confidence, but helping her be upright also means keeping her out of hospital – which means keeping us together as a family.”
Newlife has provided equipment for 94 children in Dorset, at a cost of more than £120,215, so we know there is a very real need for a specific county fund. In this way we aim to help more children, more quickly.

Earlier this year Newlife Foundation launched the Dorset Fund – It is an opportunity for local people to help local disabled children and every penny donated and fundraised in Dorset is guaranteed to support vulnerable families in the county.

Special disability equipment including wheelchairs, walkers, beds, seating and communication aids can help give children independence, keep them safe, relive pain and overcome challenges. For instance, you could help a child be discharged from hospital, take their first steps or kick a football with their friends…

The Newlife Dorset Fund website – – enables local people to find out who needs help in their county right now and includes contact details of the Newlife County Liaison Team – tel no 01543 431 444 or email – and show specific ways people can help support children with disabilities or terminal illness and their families.

Pictured: Sophie Pritchett