A schoolboy who is on a mission to raise £50,000 to fund an operation to help him walk will take centre stage as Christmas comes to Hartlepool.
Alfie Smith has been chosen to join Santa when he makes his grand arrival at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre on Sunday to launch the annual Santa’s Grotto.
The nine-year-old from Hartlepool has cerebral palsy which affects his arms and legs and unable to walk unaided.
The condition regularly leaves the youngster, who has a passion for football, in severe pain.
Alfie and his family are currently trying to raise £50,000 to enable him to undergo a life-saving operation to enable him to walk for the first time.
At this moment in time, Alfie is an ideal candidate to undergo selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) surgery.
I’ve heard so much about Alfie and can’t wait to meet him on the day.Mark Rycraft
However, he now faces a race against time to raise the £50,000 needed to pay for the operation which will be carried out at Leeds General Infirmary.
If his condition deteriorates he will no longer be suitable.
So far, fundraising events have helped to raise £3,500.
Now, the youngster has been invited to join Santa on his sleigh as he makes his way to the shopping centre.
The festive fanfare taking place on Sunday marks the start of Santa’s residency at the centre where he will be on hand to meet and greet youngsters in the run up to Christmas.
Centre Manager Mark Rycraft said: “I have yet to meet Alfie, but I have met his mam and his auntie and I’ve just been bowled over by his story.
“Every year, we give a deserving young person the chance to ride with Santa in his sleigh into the shopping centre, and Alfie was the first person we thought of.
“I’ve heard so much about him and can’t wait to meet him on the day.”
The Throston Primary School pupil will join Santa outside of Wilkinson’s before being pulled through the centre to its central square where Santa’s Grotto has been created.
The sleigh will be led by members of Hartlepool’s Round Table who has already made a £500 donation from cash raised at a recent beer festival.
Mr Ryecraft added: “It is always a fantastic event with such a huge turnout. I’m sure Alfie will be made up with it all. “
The event starts at noon.
For information on fundraising events and to make a donation visit facebook page Help Alfie Walk, or visit the website helpalfiewalk.co.uk/