THE family of an Irish girl who dreams of being able to walk thanks to pioneering US surgery are within sight of their €60,000 fund-raising target thanks to the generosity of Herald readers.
Katie Byrne (7) requires €60,000 for special surgery at a Missouri hospital which will allow her walk normally.
Her parents, Robert and Antoinette, from Stepaside and Coolock in Dublin, admitted they were "absolutely overwhelmed" by the kindness of people deeply moved by an account of Katie's race against time in this newspaper.
"We just cannot believe it - we opened the post over the past few days and the letters were filled with cheques and pledges of support," Antoinette said.
One pensioner, a daily reader who insisted on remaining anonymous, wrote a cheque for over €1,000 she was so touched by Katie's plight.
The couple have now received cheques and pledges worth almost €5,000 in just four days - and are now just €3,000 short of their €60,000 target.
"One lady included a special prayer with her donation," Antoinette said.
"I just cannot believe how kind people have been - our faith in human kindness will never be shaken after this."
The couple, who now live in Cobh, Co Cork, believe Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy (SDR) will help transform their daughter's life.
Katie is scheduled to undergo the procedure in Missouri on October 23.
The operation has to be paid for one month in advance so the couple are now desperate to get all pledged donations in by the September 23 deadline.
But thanks to the Herald they hope to reach that target within the next week if the level of donations is maintained.
The special SDR procedure at Washington University Hospital in St Louis hospital has been hugely successful in helping patients like Katie resolve their muscle, hamstring and tendon issues resulting from cerebral palsy.
"She is such a wonderful girl, she is brave and intelligent and we want her to be able to walk and play just like any other little girl," the couple said.
Katie was born 12 weeks premature in November 2006 after a very complicated pregnancy.
The little girl had breathing difficulties and was in the intensive care unit for almost five weeks in Cork.
At 17 months, Katie was diagnosed as having cerebral palsy.
"She once asked me why she can't walk like the other children? When your child asks that, it is absolutely heartbreaking," Antoinette said.
Further information can be obtained from www.katiesdreamtowalk.com