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WellChild volunteers offer Newmarket's Madison Erskine a helping hand

Madison Erskine with mum Emma, brother Dylan and the volunteers who have been working on the garden
Madison Erskine with mum Emma, brother Dylan and the volunteers who have been working on the garden

A garden makeover funded by a children’s charity is set to give a disabled Newmarket girl a place where she can feel safe and happy.

Eleven-year-old Madison Erskine has Bardet-Biedl syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, and severe autism. She has no peripheral vision and her ability to communicate is very limited because she is non-verbal.

Although she enjoys going daily to the Riverside School for children with special needs, in Bury St Edmunds, when she is at home her access to an outside area where she can play has been limited, leading to frustration.

“At the moment Madison won’t go out into our garden because it is all so uneven,” said her mother Emma Carter.

“Any sort of dip in the ground looks to her like a bottomless pit because of the problems with her vision so she gets very anxious.

“I’m afraid doing the garden never gets off the bottom of my list of things to do, so when I saw a link on Facebook about the WellChild charity I filled out a form and sent it off. I didn’t think much more about it until someone contacted me and arranged an interview and we were picked to have the work done on the garden,” said Emma.

Work has been carried out this week by 10 volunteers from financial company St James’s Place working in conjunction with WellChild as part of their renowned Helping Hands project.

The garden has been levelled and laid with artificial grass and an extended patio area and has been built up at the back with railway sleepers. Sensory lights have created an area which should benefit Madison’s behaviour and wellbeing.

“She will have the whole garden to go out in. She knows the layout and hopefully feeling safe will enable her to have much more independence,” said Emma, who hopes the project marks a change in her family’s fortunes.

Five years ago her partner Nick, father to Madison and brother Dylan, died suddenly leaving Emma to bring up the children alone.

Then, last year, she was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer affecting the immune system, and had to undergo six rounds of chemotherapy treatment.

Although Emma is now in remission, she said Dylan found it hard to cope with her illness so soon after losing his father. But he now has a place at the Include Primary School in Bury St Edmunds where pupils follow the national curriculum but also get help with social and emotional difficulties.