Oscar, 3, with his sisters Lily, 10 (left), and Amelie, 8, at Devonport Naval Base.
26 January 2017
A Wellington three-year-old with cerebral palsy was reunited with “his girls” at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base following a 25-day fundraising ride by three Royal New Zealand Navy women.
Leading Medic Caitlin Williams, Able Medic Lauren Meyer and Able Combat Warfare Specialist Sarah Freeman invited Oscar Cakebread, his parents Anna Williamson and Chris Cakebread and sisters Lily, 10, and Amelie, 8, to Auckland for a tour on Friday, 20 January.
Between 11 December and 3 January Caitlin, Lauren and Sarah cycled the length of New Zealand to raise money for Oscar, who has spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which causes severe muscle stiffness, or spasticity – similar to having constant leg cramps.
The three sailors went searching for a “cause” for which to fundraise during their bike ride and discovered Oscar on Givealittle.
“He’s pretty cute, and he hadn’t raised much money, so we chose him,” Sarah said.
The trio raised more than $7000 for Oscar, and the Auckland trip was a chance for the family to thank the Navy and the sailors, who they met for the first time in Wellington on 20 December, halfway through their journey.
At the Devonport base Oscar was given a tour of supply ship HMNZS Endeavour, which Sarah and Caitlin serve on. The captain, Commander Martin Doolan, gave up his chair so Oscar could “drive”.
The base’s boat squadron treated Oscar and his sisters to a bouncy ride on a rigid-hulled inflatable boat on Waitemata Harbour. Then the Dive Clearance Group put on a diving display for the family, before presenting Oscar with a Royal New Zealand Navy diver’s ball cap and a plaque with a diving knife attached.
In September Oscar underwent surgery on his legs in Britain, costing the family about $100,000.
The treatment had transformed him, his parents said. Before surgery he was subdued, barely able to walk and in constant pain. But at the base he giggled and glowed with the joy of discovery, pulling his parents along.
Mr Cakebread said it was almost like he didn’t have a character before.
“People don’t realise how it affects the whole family. He could be up 20 times a night. Now he’s just come out of himself, and he’s a horrendously cheeky character.”
Ms Williamson said the family were humbled by the fundraising offer from Caitlin, Lauren and Sarah following the family’s appeal on Givealittle.
“We were sitting down one night, and there was this message from them. They said they were doing this ride, and wanted to make it meaningful. We were absolutely blown away, it was so unbelievable.”
There had been a lot of emails since, but when they met the riders in Wellington it was like they were part of the family, Ms Williamson said.
“We felt like we had known them forever.”
The family had a wonderful day in Devonport, she said.
“Oscar’s been saying: ‘I went on the big boat with my girls. And I got a hat.’ He absolutely loved the day.”
Caitlin, Lauren and Sarah are keeping their fundraising page open. To donate, please visit www.givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/cycle4oscar