A big-hearted youngster suffering from a rare disorder has teamed up with a St Helens shopping centre to ensure children spending Christmas in hospital have a magical time.
Church Square Shopping Centre is encouraging people to donate gifts to Kenzie Appleton’s toy appeal for Alder Hey Children’s Children’s Hospital.
The nine-year-old from Sutton, St Helens, has been a patient at Alder Hey for four years, since being diagnosed with Perthes Disease, a hip disorder that left him using a wheelchair, unable to play with other children or take part in sports including his beloved football.
And among the first to step forward with donations for Kenzie’s Toy Appeal was John Franklin, manager of Scotts menswear store at Church Square – who spent three months at Alder Hey as a child. John celebrated both his fourth birthday and Christmas in the hospital after falling 20 feet from a bedroom window of his Netherley home onto concrete, rupturing his spleen and suffering other injuries.
Kenzie is aiming to beat his success of last year, when he filled a van full of toys for his fellow patients – with the gifts delivered on the day he was being operated on, just before Christmas.
“This year Kenzie wants to fill two vans and he is so determined, I’m sure he’ll do it,” said proud mum Tara Hewitt.
“We’re appealing for toys suitable for babies to 16-year-olds, so anything from cuddly toys, musical instruments and playing cards to dressing up clothes and face painting sets.
“Anything that brightens a child’s stay in hospital at Christmas will make Kenzie happy.
“We really can’t thank Church Square enough for wanting to help support Kenzie’s Toy Appeal for Alder Hey Children’s Hospital this year.
“We know that the smallest gift can make the biggest difference to a child in hospital this Christmas and we would really like to give something back to Alder Hey.”
Kenzie’s toy appeal is part of a host of activities in the coming weeks at Church Square including a special festive event to find the best little elf for 2015.
Saturday, November 14 will see the town’s Elf Yourself contest at Church Square with youngsters transformed by a team of face painters into Santa’s new recruits, before the town’s Christmas lights are switched on.
There will be free parking at Church Square every Saturday from now until Christmas and then for the Boxing Day sales, until December 28, with a new H&M store due to open shortly.
Church Square Shopping Centre manager Steven Brogan agreed to back Kenzie’s appeal after being contacted by Tara.
Steven said: “It’s important to us that we engage with the community that we serve here in St Helens.
“Not only have retailers agreed to get involved but shoppers in the centre will be donating gifts too. We look forward to seeing all the gifts donated for this great cause.’’
Kenzie’s story immediately touched John Franklin, who recalled being treated at Alder Hey when he was a youngster. He fell when trying to get a toy from the top of a wardrobe – he got onto the window ledge, kicked the window through and fell. His horrified mum saw him fall past the kitchen window.
Now, fully recovered and still living in Netherley, the 30-year-old plays football, runs half marathons and always donates to Alder Hey appeals.
John said: “I can understand what it’s like for children in hospital over Christmas as I was there myself as a child. I can remember that the Christmas tree on the ward was covered in lollipops and the nurses made a big fuss of us. But it’s not the same as being back home on Christmas Day.
“As soon as I heard about Kenzie’s appeal, I wanted to be involved – I will be collecting donations from my colleagues, and encouraging family and friends to buy toys. I hope everybody can find time to drop in a gift for Alder Hey as well.”
Kenzie’s family knew something was wrong when he developed a limp that didn’t go away. An x-ray confirmed Perthes disease, a condition that affects the femur in the leg making it soft and breakable due to a lack of blood supply to the head of the bone.
He was immediately referred to Alder Hey where he was placed on a ‘wait and watch’ involving close monitoring and regular check-ups.
A further x-ray revealed that Kenzie’s bone was getting worse and he required surgery. In February 2012 he underwent an operation to reshape the bone in his leg, leaving him bed-ridden in a hip cast for three months.
He has since undergone months of intense physiotherapy and hydrotherapy as well as a second operation. However, despite still having muscle damage and weakness in the affected leg, Kenzie is determined and positive and has fund-raised tirelessly for Alder Hey.
All donations will be delivered to the children at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital on Friday December 18.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital – Alder Hey Childrens Hospital cares for over 270,000 children, young people and their families and lead research into children’s medicines, infection, inflammation and oncology recently moving into their new Alder Hey in the Park in early October 2015. For more information visit http://www.alderhey.nhs.uk/.
Church Square Shopping Centre is open daily and situated in the heart of St Helens. The centre is home to a range of big name stores such as River Island, BHS, and Fat Face – along with independent retailers plus the busy St Mary’s Market. For more information visit http://www.churchsquaresthelens.co.uk