AN IRISH family said an emotional 'thank you' to supporters and the Irish Independent as they jetted out to the US for life-changing surgery for their three-year-old son.
Kevin and Fidelma Dolan yesterday flew with their family from Dublin to Missouri for pioneering surgery so their son, Mark, can walk normally.
The couple mortgaged themselves to the hilt to raise €60,000 of the estimated €135,000 cost for Mark's surgery and rehabilitation in St Louis.
Thanks to dedicated supporters in their native Galway - and publicity from the Irish Independent - the couple are now within sight of their fundraising target.
"There are a few events still to be staged so, hopefully, we will creep over the line this month or next month," Kevin explained.
"But we are absolutely thrilled that Mark will finally get the surgery and his chance at a normal life. We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts."
Mark was assessed as an ideal candidate for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) at a clinic in St Louis under surgeon Dr TS Park.
The clinic has already helped several other Irish children suffering from conditions such as cerebral palsy and motor delay syndrome (MDS) - which Mark suffers from - to escape their reliance on wheelchairs and enjoy the 'miracle of walking'.
Mark and his twin sister, Maeve, were born five weeks prematurely on August 9, 2012.
While Maeve suffered no ill-effects, Mark was diagnosed with MDS, which primarily affects his legs.
Mark's mother, Fidelma, has devoted the past three years to researching what can be done to best help him.
"We just weren't going to accept that Mark was going to be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his life," she said.
"What parent would?"