Pride of Hartlepool winner James Fewster-Smith walks for the first time unaided

Pride Award winner James Fewster-Smith

Pride Award winner James Fewster-Smith

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A BRAVE youngster who was the face of fundraising campaign to buy life-changing tricycles for stricken children is taking his first steps unaided after overcoming his own rare disorder.

James Fewster-Smith spearheaded a Hartlepool Mail campaign that raised more than £10,000 to buy six adapted bikes for the self-funded Parents and Children Together (PACT) group.

For his bravery and determination James was honoured at the Hartlepool Mail’s Pride of Hartlepool Awards and his heartwarming news comes on the day your campaigning Mail launches this year’s awards and asks: “Could you be the Pride of Hartlepool for 2012.”

Proud parents Christine Fewster Smith and Gavin Smith today spoke their sheer delight as they witnessed a moment they fearedthey might never see.

Christine said: “We are just overjoyed and so proud.”

James was just two when he attended the Parents and Children Together self-help group which met once a week at Grange Primary School.

He giggled and played with other toddlers despite going through a myriad of medical checks to determine the condition that was blighting his life. He was later diagnosed as having MASA syndrome, a neurological disorder.

At one stage, James, now four, had a staggering 18 professionals involved in his care, as he fought to overcome a rare syndrome that affected his movement and restricted his development.

But he never once stopped smiling and his cheerful personality galvanised the Hartlepool public who responded in generous style when James became the face of the Hartlepool Mail’s Make A PACT Appeal to buy tricycles for him and other youngsters suffering from an array of conditions.

In his early years James underwent genetic testing at the pioneering Centre for Life in Newcastle and faced complex operations at the Leeds Teaching Hospital.

He spent long periods in plaster but amazed everyone with his courage.

He is due to another operation before April to pin the joint in his hands and will be in plaster for four weeks and then splints after that.

Christine, 28, and Gavin, 30, who also have a 15-week-old son, Harry, said: “This is a massive thing – we never thought it would happen.

The couple, who live in the King Oswy area of Hartlepool, beamed: “Everyone is so proud of James and what he has achieved.

“He is an amazing child and we are so, so proud of him.

“He has been through it all with a smile on his face and has even managed to keep us going through some difficult times.

“He has endured so much in recent years and to see him taking his first steps unaided is remarkable.”

James was one of four remarkable youngsters who were honoured as Children of Courage at last year’s Pride of Hartlepool Awards.

He had been nominated for his role in the fundraising campaign and proud Christine said: “It was a real honour for the family but also for everyone in the PACT group and their shared sense of dedication and determmination.”

Click to make your nomination for Pride of Hartlepool 2012 Pride of Hartlepool Nomination Form