Former Forton school pupil Ella Benn was the centre of attention on Sunday – when she was the VIP guest at a Fun Day in Forton in her honour.
It could have been an overwhelming occasion for the 10- year-old pupil who finished chemotherapy just weeks ago.
But the brave youngster, who had to have part of her leg amputated following the discovery of bone cancer last October, was full of smiles as she received a major boost to her ambition to get back to sporting activities.
Villagers presented her family with a cheque for £5,000 raised to help meet the £2,500 cost of a special artifical limb which will enable Ella to run on the beach near her new home in Rolleston, New Zealand and replacement limbs and medical care as she grows.
The family was back in Britain for a wedding.
Mum Sandi recalled: “We booked the flights 10 days before we got Ella’s diagnosis...She got out of chemo 10 days before we flew.”
The flight dates had to be rearranged, but once Ella was back in Britain there was no stopping her determination to have fun: “She was dancing on the wedding day and said this was the best day of her life. She was very happy.”
Her mum also revealed how Ella had been inspired by paralympic swimmer Sophie Pascoe who came to see her during her second week of chemotherapy.
“She got a gold medal out of her handbag and let her hold it.”
Sandi said Ella was so inspired she wants to become a paralympian herself: “One of the things I want to do is get a running blade for her.
“It was Sophie who told her she has different legs and said she could have a beach leg, a running leg for going on a treadmill and a general leg. Ella is a real beach babe. She was going to learn to surf and she loves body boarding, jumping the waves and messing around in rock pools.”
Sandi explained that on crutches it would be impossible, but with the right prosethetic limb Ella would have far greater opprotunities to fulfil her ambitions.
Ellas has had rotationplasty surgery which means her foot can now act like a knee joint, with the foot sitting in a new prosethetic limb enabling her to run, jump, climb and trampoline.
Their stay culminated in the Fun Day and barbeque on Sunday, which included a village rounders’ tournament, which Ella took part in.
Sandi, who works in intensive care at the Christchurch Hospital where Ella was treated said: “It’s been lovely – just to get here and have everyone rooting for Ella. We feel humble really; all this fuss for us.”
As for Ella she is a little embarrassed at all the fuss but is delighted to have been reunited with her foremr school friends. She said: “It’s been good seeing everyone.”
Meanwhile the family’s friends in Forton say the fund-raising will continue with an annual event organised to help meet Ella’s continuing costs.