A child who is blind in one eye is raising awareness of his condition while also giving back to the hospitals that treated him.
Taylor Dignan has completed 11 one-mile runs ending at his beloved Stockport County football ground. His motivation behind the runs has been to raise money for Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, which will split the funds between Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.
While many friends and family have rallied to support Taylor in his challenge, some individuals have taken to bullying him for the way he looks. Which is why the fundraising has come hand-in-hand with Taylor sharing his story to raise awareness and inspire other children to celebrate their differences.
“I don’t just want to help people like me, I want the money to help lots of patients at the hospitals,” said 10-year-old Taylor. “I know how it feels to be in and out of hospital – I’ve been going there all my life.
“I also know what it feels like to be bullied. I don’t want other children to experience what I did, which is why I’m telling people about my condition. Thankfully the bullying has stopped now and I have lots of nice friends, but people need to know that they shouldn’t be mean to you just because you might be different to them.
“My condition affects lots of things, not just my eye. I also have problems with my teeth and I have to give myself injections to make me grow. But it doesn’t stop me from doing things I like – like playing football. I also like drawing and designing football strips.”
Taylor has a rare condition known as Anterior Segment Dygenesis (ASD). It is a spectrum of disorders that affect the development of the front of the eye, however Taylor is lucky as a lot of patients have problems with both eyes, while his type of ASD only affects his right eye.
It also makes his teeth very fragile “like shells” and the ASD also affects his growth. He is currently 107cm (the average height for a boy in the UK is approx. 138.4cm) and is taking growth hormones to help prepare him for puberty.
Born at Stepping Hill, medical teams referred Taylor to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital where he underwent his first surgery at just 48-hours old. They referred him to neighbouring Manchester Royal Eye Hospital where he now has regular outpatient appointments. However, he is still under the children’s hospital for his growth hormones. As the condition is so rare and affects people differently, Taylor also takes part in research studies.
Taylor’s mum Sam said: “In Year One he was quite severely bullied about this eye and he was so downhearted by it all he was supported with counselling through the hospitals. We also had him fitted with a cosmetic lens so it looked like his other eye, but it was quite uncomfortable and by then the damage [the bullying] had already been done.
“He had counselling for seven months, so to see how he is now is incredible – he’s really grown in confidence and he’s a different boy now. He used to have a very poor image of himself. Sometimes children can be very cruel.
“A few weeks ago at school the pupils had to make a poster about themselves. When I asked Taylor how he found it he said ‘I was fine talking about my condition. I want to help other children like me’.
“That’s when he said he wanted to do some fundraising. It started off with a very elaborate 100-mile challenge but we talked him round to 10 miles because he is 10 years old. He started on 24th November and finished 3rd December but then he was excited to be invited to do an extra mile at Stockport, which he did just before Christmas.
“He absolutely loved it. He met all the players, had a special lunch and received lots of special gifts from the club. The crowd applauded him and Taylor said it was the best day of his life.
“His school have been so supportive – his 10th mile was round the school field with his friends and the other week they did a special assembly dedicated to him and his challenge.
“I think he’ll be doing 20 miles in 20 days next. He definitely wants to do more.”
Taylor mapped out a one-mile route near his home in Offerton, Stockport and did the circuit with dad Dan, even venturing out during rain and snow.
When Sam started posting about the challenge on her Facebook, the donations almost immediately met Taylor’s initial £250 target and he is now on more than £2,500. The fundraising page proved so popular, it caught the attention of someone who works at Stockport County. When they realised Taylor was a fan, they invited him to run another mile, ending at the ground when Stockport played Hartlepool United in December.
Taylor lives with his mum Sam, dad Dan, and younger brothers Harrison, eight, and Bobby, six, cheered him at Stockport.
Jo Thomas, Community Fundraising Officer at Manchester Foundation Trust Charity, said: “Taylor is such an inspiring young man and his family must be so proud of everything he has done.
“Taylor wants the majority of his fundraising money to go to Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and is particularly keen on research projects. It’s incredible that someone so young has such a passion for fundraising and where it is spent – helping other patients like him.” To donate to Taylor’s fundraising page visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/taydiggs To find out more about Manchester Foundation Trust Charity and its projects visit http://www.mftcharity.org.uk