A DOTING dad and his friends and relatives will cycle the length of the UK in just seven days to raise funds to enable a better quality of life for his disabled son.

Aston Fields toddler Fletcher Stanford, 16 months old, was diagnosed in October with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) which could mean he needs a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

His father Ben, 29, will lead a group of seven tackling the gruelling John O’Groats to Land’s End ride in July to raise funds for specialised equipment for Fletcher as well as home modifications.

Ben, head of PE at North Bromsgrove High School, said he and partner Adele Glover, 30, have been taken aback by the generosity of donors who have already pledged more than £12,000 to the cause.

“We have been so overwhelmed by the response,” said Ben.

“We’ve got big friendship groups and Adele’s got a big family.

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

“But there are people we went to school with, who we haven’t spoken to in 16 years, who have been donating so much money, donating things for a raffle. They have been absolutely amazing.

“We have had companies donate a week’s profit towards the cause and it’s spread via Instagram, we’ve had a jewellers in London donating £500. The community have just been phenomenal.

“It’s like a lifetime bank of money that we can say, if Fletcher needs something and it’s going to make him more mobile, we’ve got the money there to buy it.

“With the NHS, as amazing as they are, there’s a certain standard of model you might get but if you want something that is going to make his quality of life better, that comes at an additional cost.”

Ben and Adele, who also have another son, Frasier, 3, first raised concerns to their GP about Fletcher in March but it took several months for him to be diagnosed with genetic condition SMA.

Babies rarely survive beyond the first few years with Type 1 SMA but Fletcher has Type 2 which means that while he might be confined to a wheelchair he could enjoy a normal lifespan.

Ben added: “At six months, he was able to lie on his stomach, put his hands on the carpet and lift his head off the floor, he could do all of that.

“He was progressing nicely but then it all started to stop – well, not stop, it started to reverse. He didn’t have the strength to do those things, he didn’t have the strength to sit up.

“We would find him falling over every time he was sat upright.”

Bromsgrove Advertiser:

Fletcher’s uncles, two of Adele’s cousins and two of Ben’s friends will join him on the fundraising bike ride which will see the septet cycle 910 miles in a week – an average of 130 miles per day.

“I cycled from London to Paris eight years ago but the mileage compared to this was small,” added Ben, whose Justgiving page can be found here.

“We are going to be cycling from the early hours of the morning until late in the afternoon every day. It will be tough.

“By doing this challenge we hope to raise funds to provide Fletcher with all the support and opportunities to live a long and fulfilling life.

“Fletcher is as eager and excited as the next to be an ambulatory, mischievous young boy. He is a shining light to us all.”

As well as raising money for Fletcher’s future, Ben and Adele are keen to raise awareness of the condition.

Ben added: “SMA UK’s end goal is to screen parents who are having babies for SMA, this is why we want to raise awareness so hopefully one day it allows parents to prepare themselves for this.”