Archie Cleaver was left with his lifelong condition after suffering a “stillbirth” ten years ago and undergoing emergency resuscitation to save his life.
Archie and his mother Victoria moved to their Woofferton Road address four years ago, with the council converting the property using a hoist and a lift – but the uneven garden was almost entirely inaccessible
It was a bitter disappointment for the ten-year-old, who says his mum says he’s happiest outside – but now the family have been overwhelmed by the efforts of a group of volunteers to transform the garden.
The WellChild charity has turned the garden from a source of frustration into a place of pure joy for an ecstatic Archie and his mum.
Victoria said: “I loved the size of the garden but the accessibility wasn’t great for Archie. You could bring it here and park it – but it’s not a car.
“I applied in 2019 and then the world stood still and I didn’t think it would ever happen. I didn’t think it would be successful.
“The pandemic was terrible. Archie had nothing to do for six months. It was just me and him the house.
“He would have been at school five days a week. But we had to shield ourselves so we couldn’t go to the supermarket.”
For Archie’s garden, the volunteers spent two days leveling the ground, installing a large decking area and accessible ramps, and then beginning the laying of a new artificial turf.
Now the family say their fate has changed and they are already looking forward to unveiling the new premises with a garden party to celebrate the Queen’s platinum anniversary.
Victoria said: “I never thought it would be this good. I will make the difference with our quality of life.
“If Archie could live outside, he would. It calms him down when he’s stressed.
“He loves being outside so we wanted to finish the garden.
“Now it looks fantastic.”
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WellChild employee Kieran Cullen and a team of 10 volunteers from companies across the region moved more than 10 tons of soil in just 48 hours to make the garden more accessible.
Harriet King, senior finance manager at property finance firm Propp in Fareham, said: “It’s the first project I’ve been involved with.
“It’s very rewarding. It’s hard work – if you’ve had an office job, you’re not really used to manual work. But it’s good to throw something good back into the world.
“I would recommend it to everyone.”
Propp has raised over £14,000 for WellChild, with each garden transformation project costing the organization around £8,000.
The charity has recently submitted applications for its garden makeover program again – and has been inundated with calls for help, according to Kieran.
He said: “The need right now is absolutely massive. We have received 1,200 expressions of interest in our garden project. This shows that the need is huge. We can only do about 40 of these projects a year.
Noting the need for more volunteers to transform the families’ gardens, Kieran added, “If someone has corporate social responsibility groups at their company and speaks to them and gets in touch with us through our website, we can see what we’re doing be able.”
WellChild is a national charity that provides support to ensure children dealing with work-related illness and disability can spend as much time as possible in their family home.
The charity offers a range of support services, including WellChild nurses to help at home and medical training for families, as well as their popular garden makeover program.
Victoria said she hopes her story will lead to other families applying and getting the support they need.
The 43-year-old said: “There is support out there but you need to be aware of it. It’s word of mouth. They meet parents and exchange information.
“I’m so glad I heard about WellChild.”