THEY set out to raise £65,000 to help change their brave little girl's life forever. And four months on, thanks to the generosity of more than 1,000 friends, strangers and a few Premier League footballers, the family of eight-year-old Scarlett Hewitt have met their goal. In March, Lisa and John Hewitt, from New Addington, launched their campaign to raise the money so their daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy, could have a specialist operation in America to help her walk unaided. They have now reached their target, with £65,000 raised from 1,211 donations – with money still coming in for the cause. Speaking to the Advertiser this week, Mrs Hewitt said the response had been "unbelievable" and "puts your faith back into the human race". She said: "We cannot believe that in just 15 weeks we have raised the money. It is unbelievable, the response has been amazing. We have also worked very hard. "We have met some lovely people, made some new friends. It puts your faith back in the human race, it is really fantastic. Scarlett is like, 'Wow.'" Scarlett was approved in March for the selective dorsal rhizotomoy operation at St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, after being denied the operation on the NHS. Her condition means she struggles with basic tasks such as getting dressed, often has to use a wheelchair, and misses out on playing with her friends. The operation, which involves cutting nerves in her lower spine, is designed to lessen muscle spasticity and improve mobility in sufferers of cerebral palsy, a permanent condition. Mrs Hewitt stressed that the operation, planned for October, will mark the start of a long period of rehabilitation, which any funds raised above the £65,000 target will help towards. She said: "I think the reality of it is going to be a lot of hard work. It is going to take a lot of muscle-strengthening. Scarlett knows what's going to come after, she knows it is not going to be just like that." Most of the money raised has been through individuals, community groups and companies organising sponsored events or challenges, including sky-dives, auctions, football matches and runs. But perhaps the biggest contributions have come from Crystal Palace – the family's favourite football team – and its supporters. The club donated money, invited Scarlett to be a team mascot at the match against Manchester City at Selhurst Park, and allowed the family to collect donations at that match. Fans also organised their own events, including auctioning memorabilia. The New Addington community helped considerably. The local Nugget FC football tournament helped raise funds last weekend, among many other efforts.
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