AN APPEAL to help a Caldicot tot to walk independently has raised more than £20,000 – reaching its half-way target.

Two-year-old Imogen Ashwell-Lewis suffers from a debilitating nerve-muscle condition known as spastic diplegia cerebral palsy, which means she is unable to walk unaided and relies on a specially-made wheelchair.

Her mum Catherine Ashwell-Rice, 36, of Lapwing Avenue launched an appeal four months ago through the Tree of Hope Charity to raise the £40,000 needed to pay for a pioneering operation, not available on the NHS, and has so far raised £20,187.36 through fundraising events and donations.

Among the events that have been held are a sponsored zipwire challenge, family fun days, a sponsored chess tournament, car washes and a vintage tractor run.

Ms Ashwell-Rice said: “Reaching the halfway mark has been a real morale boost for everyone involved in the fundraising.”

“To have had so much help achieving this in such a short period of time has been overwhelming but thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve made a lot of new friends and so has Imogen.”

The Argus’s sister paper, The Free Press, is backing the appeal for Imogen, who was born 11 weeks early, weighing 3lb 2oz, and diagnosed with the condition at 15-months-old. She has daily physiotherapy but her mum hopes a procedure, performed at Bristol Children’s Hospital, called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) will help avoid further muscle deterioration and stiffness.

The procedure was developed by a surgeon at the St Louis Children’s Hospital, Missouri. It involves removing bone from one vertebrae and making an incision in the spine to divide nerve roots that contribute to the spasticity, giving more balance and enabling the patient to walk. Nearly 2,000 children have been treated at the hospital, enabling them to live active lives.

Forthcoming fundraisers include a sponsored head shave at the Caldicot Co-op on June 25 and a collection at the Tom Jones concert at Chepstow Racecourse on July 11. Shire Fest on July 19 have named the Help Imogen Walk Appeal as one of its chosen charities.