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Kent couple to abseil for charity
Kent couple to abseil for charity

A Hever couple are taking on a 138 metre abseil from the i360 in Brighton to raise funds to help a Hartfield teenager regain her independence.

Rob McGlew, 51, a Hazardous Area Response Team paramedic with South East Coast Ambulance Service and wife Andrea, 52, a former headteacher, will be taking on the challenge with 14 others on July 11th.

Matilda Kelly, 14, from Hartfield, East Sussex, has cerebral palsy which severely affects her mobility. She has had a number of surgeries over the years, including one in America when she was two years old, which her parents, Lindsey, 47, a flight attendant and Dad Dave, 54, a police trainer and their supporters raised £120,000 for in just six months.

While her various surgeries have helped her movement, as she grows her mobility has slipped back, meaning that she often now has to use a wheelchair or a walker, and is in near constant pain.

Her hamstrings are now so tight that her knees fractured spontaneously. She walks with a crouch, which affects her hips, back and posture, meaning she often falls and also now has one leg shorter than the other.

Matilda hopes to return to the US for PERCS (percutaneous releasee of muscles/tendons) surgery to lengthen her hamstrings. The surgery is not available in the UK and would be carried out by the same surgeon who successfully operated on her as a child.

Matilda said: ‘I’m in so much pain with all this and feel I’m missing out on life because I can’t join in to the best of my ability. I have to take medicines to relax my muscles so I can sleep and I can no longer even walk to the village which is just a few minutes away – one of my parents has to drive me. Not much fun for a girl my age!’

‘To set me up in the best way for adult life and keep me walking independently I need to have surgery to my hamstrings in order to lengthen them, I can lose the crouch and improve my posture reducing pressure on my back. I’m an independent soul and I was to stay that way. I want to keep up with my friends and I just can’t.’

Rob said: ‘We met Matilda’s family Lindsey and Dave at St Mary the Virgin’s Church in Hartfield a long time ago and have followed Matilda’s progress throughout her life. This operation is a major one before she enters adulthood and so we were especially keen to do our bit.’

‘We’re also having a delayed joint 50th birthday and are planning to ask our 100 guests to donate to Matilda’s fund instead of buying presents – Andrea’s birthday was during covid and I was undergoing cancer treatment when it was my 50th birthday.’

‘I’ve abseiled often in my job before but never taken on a charity one like this, so I’m expecting it to be a bit different. But we are both active and energetic people and looking forward to the challenge, as well as helping Matilda get closer to her operation.’

Matilda’s Mum Lindsey said: ‘I’m so grateful to Rob, Andrea and all the other people doing this challenge for taking this on and helping us raise funds for Matilda.’

‘All we want is for her to regain her independence which is all any girl of her age wants. We hope to raise the funds for her to have the operation this summer before she starts her GCSE year. So far we have raised just over £11,000 and we need to reach £25,000.’

Matilda’s family is being supported by children’s charity Tree of Hope which helps families fundraise for children and teenagers like Matilda with healthcare needs which cannot be provided by the NHS and provides charity status to benefit from gift aid, corporate support while also providing donor reassurance.

Tree of Hope CEO Becky Andrew said: ‘Seeing the community rally around Matilda and her family is truly inspiring. We hope the abseil goes well and wish the family all the best with their fundraising. We are here to support however we can.’

For more information or to donate to Matilda’s fund, visit https://www.treeofhope.org.uk/ways-to-give/childrens-campaigns/keep-matilda-walking-usa/

To sponsor Rob and Andrea, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/KeepMatildaWalkingi360abseil