A HAMPSHIRE schoolboy born with a rare condition that severely limits his mobility shared his remarkable ‘can-do’ spirit during a royal visit to the charity helping him become more independent.
Charlie Oldfield-Bruton from Gosport, who has raised thousands of pounds to help others despite his own health challenges, was among those meeting HRH The Countess of Wessex at the event hosted by Whizz-Kidz, the UK’s leading charity for young wheelchair users.
Eleven-year-old Charlie, who was there to receive a new wheelchair from Whizz-Kidz designed to help him move around more easily, said: “Nothing stops me. I can do everything – I just need to find a ‘me’ way of doing it.”
The Alverstoke Junior School pupil said his new wheelchair, which has power wheels, would have a ‘massive impact’, particularly as he prepares to move to a much larger secondary school next year.
“It will be so much easier to get around than in my old wheelchair, which I could only push for a few minutes without getting really tired.”
Charlie, who lives in Gosport with mum Annie, dad Rich and brother Oscar, six, was born with Frontometaphyseal Dysplasia, an extremely rare syndrome which causes chronic kidney disease and joint immobility. He has had around 20 operations so far and may need more in the future.
At the age of just six, after surgery that left him having to use a catheter to empty his bladder, Charlie recorded a YouTube video explaining the process to help other youngsters struggling with similar issues.
In 2019, he raised more than £2,000 for charity by completing a ‘Superhero Triathlon’ made up of a 150m swim (using a snorkel, as stiffness in his neck muscles makes it impossible for him to turn his head to breathe while in the water), a three-kilometre bike ride and a one-kilometre walk, with some support.
In 2020 he took on another challenge, with friends and family sponsoring him to finish a series of wacky tasks including doughnut-eating and paper-plane flying, and in 2022 managed a second Superhero Triathlon, taking his overall charity fundraising total to more than £3,500.
Charlie’s mum Annie said: “Charlie is incredibly determined. Not once has he ever complained and he loves being unique but as he gets older his independence is everything to him.
“He’s going to want to do things like hang out with his new friends at secondary school and that’s something that just wouldn’t have been possible with his old wheelchair.”
She said the new chair from Whizz-Kidz would also change what the family could do together.
“We love the outdoors but it’s been hard to go out for walks because there was only so far we could go – Charlie doesn’t have any arm strength and his old wheelchair had to be pushed.”
During the Whizz-Kidz event in Guildford to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Her Royal Highness was given an insight into Whizz-Kidz' services and activities for young wheelchair users, ranging from yoga classes to workshops in employability skills.
Sarah Pugh, chief executive of Whizz-Kidz, said: “We were thrilled to welcome Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex and very proud to be able to introduce her to Charlie.
“His experience demonstrates very powerfully the difference we can make for young wheelchair users.
“Sadly, it is also a reminder that too many of the UK’s estimated 75,000 young wheelchair users do not have access to the equipment and support they need to live their lives with as much independence as possible.
“Our vision, which drives all of the work that we shared with Her Royal Highness, is a society in which every young wheelchair user is mobile, enabled and included.”