A kind-hearted teacher has tackled a demanding physical challenge to help raise money for a little boy to undergo life-changing surgery.
Phil Grant, who teaches history at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls, spent five gruelling hours rowing the length of the River Taff to help an old friend pay for his son to undergo a vital operation.
Three-year-old Dewi James suffers with neurological condition, diplegia spasticity cerebral palsy, and needed a Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy to enable him to walk properly.
As the operation is not available on the NHS in Wales, his parents, Rob and Deborah, were faced with raising £80,000 to cover Dewi’s operation – in St Louis, USA – and the intensive physiotherapy which will follow. Mr Grant, who also coaches rowing at HMSG, was able to contribute £1,200 thanks to generous sponsors, and Dewi had his surgery on November 19, meaning he will be home just in time for Christmas.
“I’ve known Rob since we were seven or eight – we went to primary school together,” said Mr Grant, originally from Pontypridd, where Dewi lives.
“If the roles were reversed, I’m sure he would have done something similar for me.
“Quite a few friends had done marathons or cycled the length of the Taff to do their bit.
“I can’t ride a bike and I’m not very good at running, but I rowed for 10 years.
“I thought ‘if they can cycle and run marathons, then I will row the length of the Taff’.
“I wanted to make a contribution to help Dewi achieve his dreams of being able to jump, run, to kick a ball, to be able to walk without falling over and to be without pain.”
Mr Grant took to an indoor rowing machine in October to complete the challenge at Dragon CrossFit in Cardiff, where total strangers turned up to support him.
He added: “The changes the surgery will make to Dewi’s life are massive.
“He needs two to three years of physio going forward, and his parents still need to raise around £20,000 to cover it all. Every pound helps.
“He’s such a lovely little boy, lively and funny – always smiling.
“Towards the end of the rowing, every part of me was aching.
“What kept me going was thinking about why I was doing it.
“I knew I couldn’t quit and I knew it wasn’t impossible.
“The kindness of strangers who turned up to support me was particularly moving.”
Mr Grant received around £200 in sponsorship from staff and pupils at HMSG, and hopes talking about Dewi’s struggle with the girls may motivate them to help others.
“I’d like to think the girls were inspired by the challenge, and learnt the importance of doing something selfless for someone else.
“I have a son, Michael – he’s two.
“I’m relieved and thankful that he’s ok, and he’s another motivator for me.
“I think ‘what would I want people to do if I were in the same position?’
“I would be lost.”
Mr Grant’s Just Giving page is still open for donations.