A FUNDRAISING appeal backed by the Free Press to raise £40,000 to help a Caldicot tot walk independently has the end in sight as funds top £30,000.

We have followed the story of two-year-old Imogen Ashwell-Lewis who suffers from nerve-muscle condition spastic diplegia cerebral palsy and is unable to walk unaided and relies on a specially-developed wheelchair.

Her mum Catherine Ashwell-Rice, 36, of Lapwing Avenue, launched the bid in February through the Tree of Hope Charity to raise the £40,000 needed to pay for a pioneering operation, not available on the NHS.

Now, just six months later, Ms Ashwell- Rice said the fundraising drive is three-quarters complete after a number of donations were pledged.

A charity ball will be held for Imogen in September, sponsored by Newport’s Lloyds Bank, at the Hilton Hotel.

And Ms Ashwell-Rice said: “It is amazing, especially in such a short period of time.

“It seems to be coming together. And then we have got the ball, which hopefully will be the last (fundraising attempt).”

As part of the treatment for Imogen, £29,000 will be spent on an operation and a further £11,000 will be spent on physiotherapy and aftercare.

Recent donations include £1,700 from the Newport School of Tae Kwon Do; £1,500 from the AMA (Ahmadiyya Muslim Association) given by the South East Wales Assembly Member Mohammad Ashgar at an Eid celebration in Cardiff on Sunday; £830 from a chess tournament; and a further £900 donated by the organisers of the Shirefest music festival.

One of its organisers, Philip Moles, said the festival organisers were pleased to donate to a cause locally and that Imogen herself had attended the event in Shirenewton last month.

Ms Ashwell-Rice said that among the attempts to raise money herself, she will be busily baking later this week to sell cakes on a stall at the Caerwent village show on Saturday.

Other events that have been held to raise money include a zipwire challenge, a family fun day, car washes and a vintage tractor run.

Imogen was born 11 weeks early, weighing only 3lb 2oz and diagnosed with her condition when she was 15-months-old. She undergoes physiotherapy every day. Her mum hopes a procedure at Bristol Children’s Hospital, selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), will help her daughter avoid any further muscle deterioration and stiffness.

Developed in Missouri, the SDR procedure involves removing bone from one vertebrae and making an incision in the spine to divide nerve roots that contribute to the spasticity to give more balance and help the patient to walk. Nearly 2,000 children have already by treated in this way.

For more information on the appeal, visit facebook.com/pages/Help-Imogen-walk/244937325657811.