20.06.2024

Britain’s ‘kindest plumber’ gifts £13,000 to give boy, a bionic arm

Britain’s ‘kindest plumber’ has donated almost £13,000 to pay for a new bionic arm for a football-mad young lad born without a right arm.

Charity champion , 55, from Burnley, Lancashire made the generous gesture after being touched by Alex Sparkes’s moving tale.

Alex’s mum Dionne Sparkes, 33, from Oswaldtwistle, launched a bid to raise £12,700 for the arm so the seven-year-old could take a throw-in like the rest of his football club teammates.

The Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder dreamt of getting a blue and white robotic arm bearing his team’s rose emblem.

And he was shocked when James told told him on Tuesday night: ‘I’ve just paid for your new arm.’

A moving video capturing the moment showed Alex jumping with joy at the news.

He said: ‘I want it so much. It would make me happy. It would mean the world to me.’

Dionne said she had no idea that he was missing a limb until her ‘headstrong’ son was born in hospital without a right arm.

And she said though the lad was ‘loved’ by his pals, he’d spent past birthdays ‘wishing’ his arm would grow back — only to be told this wasn’t possible.

But Dionne said his new arm would be life-changing following James’s generous donation at his home.

She said: ‘For us, it’s life-changing, and James has just done it from the kindness of his heart.

‘I never thought someone would be so kind. When James phoned me yesterday he just said, ‘Send me your bank details and I will send it’.

‘As soon as we left his home, the three of us had a massive hug. And when we got into the car, we started screaming.

‘Alex was saying: ‘I’ve got a new arm!’ He absolutely loved it.’

James was dubbed ‘Britain’s kindest plumber’ for refusing to take money from his elderly clients

Alex born after birth. His mother Dionne explained that the fact Alex didn't have an arm didn't show on her pregnancy scans

Alex born after birth. His mother Dionne explained that the fact Alex didn’t have an arm didn’t show on her pregnancy scans

Little Alex, pictured as a baby, wants to be 'normal,' his mother Dionne said, adding James' generosity had been 'life-changing'

Little Alex, pictured as a baby, wants to be ‘normal,’ his mother Dionne said, adding James’ generosity had been ‘life-changing’

Alex as a toddler. Dionne revealed that the football fan spend his birthdays wishing that his arm would grow back

James, whose company Depher has helped millions, fell ‘in love’ with Alex after he was told of his fundraiser by Carl Everitt, the co-owner of a local ice hockey club.

He said: ‘His story drew me in. If Depher can do anything, this would be it.. The arm will give a little boy his life back. I fell in love with him.

‘He will remember it for the rest of his life and it will make his life much better. It will make a little boy live again.

‘It was humbling to meet him, and it was wonderful to see his smile when I told him. It was an easy decision.

‘He is smiling and happy and getting on with his life. It’s just wonderful to see a young boy go through so much and just want to be as normal as possible.’

Alex attending a football match with his father Robin, left, and his mother Dionne, right, who started his charity appeal

Alex attending a football match with his father Robin, left, and his mother Dionne, right, who started his charity appeal

Alex, pictured recently, with an adult prosthetic arm. One he turns eight, the seven-year-old will soon be fitted with an actual prosthetic limb

Alex, pictured recently, with an adult prosthetic arm. One he turns eight, the seven-year-old will soon be fitted with an actual prosthetic limb

Charity champion James Anderson, 55, from Burnley, Lancashire offered to pay nearly £13,000 do that Alex Sparkes, pictured, could get the bionic arm he has been dreaming about

Charity champion James Anderson, 55, from Burnley, Lancashire offered to pay nearly £13,000 do that Alex Sparkes, pictured, could get the bionic arm he has been dreaming about

Alex, seven, was born without an arm to the surprise of both his mother and birthing team, in what has been dubbed a 'sporadic' event. Pictured as a toddler

Alex, seven, was born without an arm to the surprise of both his mother and birthing team, in what has been dubbed a ‘sporadic’ event. Pictured as a toddler

Dionne said she’d had a normal pregnancy and didn’t expect that Alex would be born with only one arm after her scans came back clear.

And the mum-of-one said she’d never forget the ‘silence’ that descended on her labour unit when she mentioned to nurses that her son didn’t have a full set of limbs.

She said: ‘At 36 weeks they did a scan. You could see one of his arms, and it looked like he was waving — like he was showing his arm.

‘They said his other arm was behind him, and I remember thinking: ‘At least he’s got ten fingers and ten toes’. That stuck with me.

‘I was in labour for 20 hours, and then I got to hold him for a few minutes before they took him away.

‘But when I looked over at him again, I said: ‘What’s that? He’s got a missing arm?’

‘The silence was just something I will never forget. But when they brought him over again, he was using his arm as a dummy — sucking on it — and he looked so adorable.’

Doctors later looked into the reason for Alex’s missing appendage and decided that it was due to a ‘sporadic event’, which had occurred by chance.

But crushingly, Dionne, who works for betting company Ladbrokes, said young kids were ‘scared’ of him when he first went to school after spotting his single arm.

And he’d also spent his birthday ‘wishing’ his missing arm would re-appear.

James, whose company Depher has helped millions, fell ‘in love’ with Alex after he was told of his fundraiser by Carl Everitt, the co-owner of a local ice hockey club

She said: ‘Alex just wants to be normal. On his fifth birthday, he wished for his arm to grow back. I had to tell him he couldn’t make a wish like that.

He’d been on a list of patients due to have an NHS prosthetic arm before the pandemic, but three years later, she said he was still waiting.

Dionne then visited an Open Bionics fair, which makes a robotic arm that’s so advanced it allows wearers to pick up a pin with its fingers, using their remaining muscles.

And the mum knew when he tried on one of their prosthetics for the first time, she needed to somehow find the cash for it with her teacher husband Robin, 32.

She said: ‘When Alex turned five, we heard about Open Bionics and put his name down, but they said he had to be at least eight as they didn’t make one small enough.

‘We then went to the Open Bionics event. We were there to get a feel for it.. I said to my son: «Don’t ask me for it because I haven’t got the money».

‘But they had a prototype on the table, and when he put his arm in it, the fingers opened up straight away.

‘I looked at him and I started welling up. And I said «I have got to do this».’

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