I remember the ‘phone call as if it were yesterday. Mrs Maria Lloyd, Head of St Neot’s Prep School called me in the Admissions Office at Wellington. It must have been late 2014 or early 2015. “James, I have a boy at St Neot’s who is made for Wellington and I want to do everything I can to support his ambition to come to your school. He is the most remarkable boy whom you will ever come across and, as soon as you meet him, I think you will agree with me that we need to make this work. There’s one thing you need to know. He has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around school. But please come to St Neot’s and meet him. His name is David Lofthouse and you won’t regret it!”
A few weeks later, I made the drive to the Eversley prep school where my first sight of David was in a Drama lesson – he was having a whale of a time! We met for lunch, talked about all manner of topics, but it was the subject of football, particularly his beloved Southampton FC, which made his face light up most brightly. I mentioned that I was a Newcastle United fan, which solicited a typically humorous yet excoriating series of comments from David and, by the time I left St Neot’s that afternoon, I knew that I had been in the presence of a very special young man. When David came to visit Wellington with his parents a year later and, within the first few seconds of our meeting, he asked me how Newcastle were getting on (knowing full well that they were on the verge of relegation from the Premier League), I knew that he not only had bucketloads of grit, courage and determination, but he also possessed an infectious and mischievous sense of humour too!
Fast forward to September 2017 and David, along with 11 other boys, matriculated into the Picton, where he has been a fundamental part of House and Wellington life ever since.
For those of you who don’t know David’s broader story, at the age of two, he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia, which meant he would never be able to walk independently. However, as a young boy, he underwent life-changing Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery, which substantially improved his condition and quality of life. Including accommodation and physiotherapy, the treatment costs a staggering £70,000 per person. This term, in order to help another child who cannot afford such a vast sum, David and his friends from the Picton have set themselves the challenge of raising £70,000 for the Cerebral Palsy Trust (CPT), a charity which David has set up with his Picton mates and a helping hand from Will Greenwood.
The challenge which David has set for himself is the completion of the gruelling Kingsleys – Wellington’s annual 5K race which finishes with a run through Swan Lake – and he will complete the course tomorrow, Tuesday 24 March, starting at 2.30am and finishing some 13-15 hours later. David has been training all year, starting off on a treadmill where he could barely complete 1K back in September, through to the recent completion of a 3K walk. David’s story and ambition has garnered the support of numerous celebrities such as Olivia Coleman, Jonny Bairstow, Ellie Bamber, Jason Robinson, Dan Carter, and Made in Chelsea star, Josh Patterson who supported David at a training session a few weeks ago.
Given everything that has happened over the past few days, weeks and months in the world, David really is a hero for our times, a reminder of the indomitable spirit which is there deep within all of us, enabling us to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in our lives, no matter how great they appear at first. Mrs Lloyd was right: David really is the most remarkable young man and I know that the entire Wellington Community will get behind him tomorrow as he embarks on his own personal Everest, a challenge which I know he will meet with typical courage, resilience and that twinkle in his eye which we know and love. I speak on behalf of the entire Wellington Community when I say, “Best of luck, David!”
To donate to the fund please visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/cpt
To find out more, follow the trust on Instagram @cerebralpalsytrust
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