DUNMURRY boy Gary Keatings got his wish recently when the Make-A-Wish Foundation UK granted him his own personal park for his front garden.
Four-year-old Gary, who is living with spastic quadriplegia, a form of cerebral palsy where all four limbs are affected, is unable to play in his local play park as it has not been adapted for children with disabilities. However, he now has his very own park right on his doorstep, which is specially adapted to suit his needs.
Gary enjoyed a very special treat on Saturday February 28 thanks to Make-A-Wish, the leading wish-granting charity which grants magical wishes to children and young people fighting life-threatening illnesses.
Gary's special day began when he was taken to Belfast Zoo along with his dad, Robert; mum, Paula and sister, Rachel. Gary and his family were escorted around the zoo by the head zoo keeper, Alyn Cairns and enjoyed a fun-filled afternoon where Gary was able to go into the giraffe pen and feed the giraffes. Gary was so excited to see all the different animals; he especially enjoyed stroking a snake.
A luxury limousine was waiting to take Gary and his family home for the final part of his special day. When the limousine pulled up to his house, Gary and his family were amazed to see a brand new play park complete with a swing, a roundabout and a body rocker, waiting in the garden. Gary can now remain close to home without the need of his chair and feel more independent.
Gary's mum, Paula explained that it was whilst preparing to take Gary to the US for treatment that the family got in contact with Make-A-Wish.
"Gary was going to America for treatment and we were looking on the internet for help," she said. "We contacted Make-A-Wish to see if they could help us and they explained that they couldn't help us with his treatment but that they could do something for Gary." Gary spent four weeks in the US having intense physiotherapy treatment to relax his muscles, which become extremely tightly wound due to his condition. He now goes to Newry for the treatment each week, which Paula says helps him immensely in his park.
"The treatment involves Gary being placed into a suit which gives him more posture and allows him to stand or sit. Gary can be very tight and it relaxes him a lot, it is better for him in the park. "Gary loves going to the park but he wasn't able to because they didn't have adapted swings, now everything is specially adapted for him and he can play with his sister and he has lots of cousins."
Speaking about his day at the zoo, Paula stated, "It was a lovely day out for all of us. It was nice to spend time together."
She added, "I can't thank Make-A-Wish enough. I really appreciate what they have done for us. We could never have afforded this and it will make an awful lot of difference to Gary."
To find out more about Make-A-Wish or to make a much welcomed donation, please visit www.make-a-wish.org.uk or contact Regional Manager, Lesley Johnson on 02890 805 580.