Jade is a gem with marathon effort for Stalybridge lad Aidan

A SCHOOLGIRL is pounding the pavements to complete a marathon to help raise funds to train a vital assistance dog for her near neighbour. 

Jade Higgins is taking on a marathon over the course of 10 days to add to the appeal to support Aidan Bennett. All the more remarkable is the fact they have never even met.

Three years ago, Aidan was diagnosed with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) after collapsing and becoming unresponsive at school.

It is a life-threatening heart condition, which means if 14-year-old Aidan’s heart rate increases in response to emotional stress it can trigger an abnormally fast and irregular heartbeat, which can lead to sudden death via cardiac arrest, there is no cure.

Their lives are full of uncertainty and overwhelming emotions.

But even though she was shielding as she suffers from asthma, Jade decided to don her trainers and run 2.6 miles a day.

Day one resulted in one lost shoe and one muddy sock but she carried on and completed her course.

Day three saw sore legs, napping geese that chased her and a lady who made a donation on her way to work.

And the efforts of the 11-year-old, a pupil at Ashton’s St Peter’s Primary School, after she heard the story of Aidan – who also suffers from autism and severe obsessive compulsive disorder – training a pup to become his assistance dog, with an appeal hoping to raise £12,000, have not gone unnoticed.

Aidan’s mum, Natasha, said: “Jade is an incredible young lady.

“We haven’t met Jade or her mum, although we most certainly are looking forward to doing so with little Frankie, who I’m sure will give Jade his wiggly butt wag and sloppy face kisses!”

Jade’s proud mother Michaela added: “We were staying in and staying safe but before lockdown, Jade was trying to arrange some ideas of fundraising with her teachers.

“Obviously that couldn’t happen, so when Jade was told she could do running – she loves socialising and sports – she thought why not push herself to try and raise as much money as possible for Aidan and Frankie running a marathon.

“We have never met Aidan Frankie or Natasha but we will look forward to doing this afterwards.”

Aidan’s complex needs make daily life hard for Natasha, who carries a defibrillator around with her. One coping method involves him covering up his body head to toe in dark clothing to reduce the risk of contamination.

The family is currently in isolation and has been told by the Government it has been extended until June 30.

“Aidan is an amazing boy,” she said. “He’s lovely, polite, intelligent and a keen gamer. Although he has no quality of life and we feel like we’re merely existing. Simple things like going to the shop for a pint of milk are very, very difficult, even prior to shielding.”

Having an assistance dog will help Aidan towards having some independence and someone to assist him at hospital visits, play agility games with or just to relax and spend quiet time with.

Working with Assistance Dogs UK-registered trainer David Campbell, the family sourced a puppy, Frankie.

Now they need to fund his training, with the £12,000 covering the cost of that, purchasing the pup, feed, boarding, veterinary care, assessment fees and travel costs.

It takes a minimum of 18 months to train an assistance dog so the funds raised will go towards covering that period of time.

“Aidan loves Frankie, the two are already working hard to support one another,” Natasha added. “Our trainer is wonderful, his understanding of Aidan and dedication to dogs is remarkable.

“David is highly qualified and already train and assess assistance dogs. We will all be working closely together, with Aidan included, every step of the way.”

The family has the support of Jonathan Reynolds MP as they hope to change the landscape for all children aged 10-16, who are not eligible to apply for a funded assistance dog, despite medical recommendation, because of funding restraints.

*IF YOU wish to donate to Aidan & Frankie’s appeal, you can click www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/natasha-and-aidan-eastwood?utm_term=6YpZg2DQV

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