A fund raising cycle from Eglinton to Fanad has raised over £7,000 to help the recovery of a gifted gymnast left paralysed following a vaulting accident.
Jennifer Smyth, who will be 18 on Good Friday, suffered a serious spinal injury two years ago after a tragic accident while at her gymnastics class.
The highly talented gymnast fractured and dislocated her neck, sustaining a serious spinal injury which left her in a wheelchair.
Inspired by her courage, family friend and taxi driver Ken Curry decided to spend his 55th birthday doing something wonderful for the young woman, and set about staging a 55-mile cycle with 55 participants, each of whom were tasked with raising £55.
In the end the team raised over £7,000 on St Patrick’s Day, cycling from the Happy Landing in Eglinton to the Cyclist Rest in Fahan.
Describing herself as “humbled” by the generosity shown by the participants, Jennifer’s proud mother, Pamela, said it had been “an amazing day”.
“I just want to thank everybody who took part and who donated. There are just not enough words to explain how we feel as a family. It is really touching and humbling that people have done this to help Jennifer’s Journey,” she said.
Mrs Smyth said the money would be used to help her daughter’s slow but continued return to a more mobile life.
“Jennifer will be 18 on Good Friday and she is absolutely marvellous. She has such strength and keeps us all on our toes. She has not had a single down day since her accident and she is just so positive, it keeps us all going,” said Pamela.
Floored by the support the family and fund raisers received, Mrs Smyth thanked all those involved in the event, including the pub staff who supplied the Irish stew for the cyclists, and the band: “I really want to thank the management and staff at the Happy Landing for hosting us, and in particular Linda Campbell for her support in organising the event, as well as the Palais Swing Band who entertained for free, and Constable Paul McGurk, of Waterside Rural NPT and the PSNI for their assistance.
So far, thanks to fund raising, the family have been able to buy a range of specialist equipment to help Jennifer in her rehabilitation, and the hope is that in the near future they will be able to send her to Project Walk in America.
Typically up-beat about her condition, when Pamela asked her daughter what she wanted for her 18th birthday, she told her that she wanted a set of callipers - such is the young woman’s determination to get mobile and independent again.
Jennifer has also returned to school, where she is studying physics, art and PEW, and her ambition is to study sports technology at Loughborough University in England.