Cabbies’ fund drive for ‘sunshine girl’

NRHNBE111220d1, New all terrain wheelchair for Jessica Searle 6, Jacksdale. Brian and Lisa Benford  from Bryans taxis, Elly Benford, Warren, oliver and Tracy Searle.
NRHNBE111220d1, New all terrain wheelchair for Jessica Searle 6, Jacksdale. Brian and Lisa Benford from Bryans taxis, Elly Benford, Warren, oliver and Tracy Searle.

A DISABLED young girl received a special Christmas present after a local taxi firm helped to buy her a new wheelchair.

Jessica Searle, five, from Franklin Road in Jacksdale was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth.

The NHS wheelchair she has always used to get around is bumpy and uncomfortable, according to her father and full-time carer Warren Searle, 41.

But thanks to a fundraising drive by village-based cabbie firm Brian’s Taxis, young Jessica has been bought an all-terrain wheelchair to help her get out and about.

Warren said: “The new chair is really great.

“It is going to get her out in the fresh air without a struggle and without the hassle we had with her old wheelchair.”

Jessica, who will be six in January, is known locally as the ‘sunshine girl’ because she is always smiling.

Her dad Warren first got in contact with the taxi company in September.

He got talking to the firm’s joint owner Lisa Benford in the Jacksdale Primary School playground while they waited to pick up their children from the school.

Warren told Lisa, 35, of Francis Court, that he was desperately trying to raise money for a better wheelchair for his daughter but was struggling to meet the £2,000 price tag.

His family, which includes Warren’s partner Tracey Kirsten and 19-month-old son Oliver love to go on country walks together.

Lisa’s team took to the task straight away.

“Lisa put some posters up in the taxi rank,” said Warren, “And it just spiralled out of control from there really.”

The nine-car firm went on a number of sponsored jaunts for Jessica.

Lisa herself raised £600 by ‘sphere-rolling’ in Westwood, where she bravely climbed inside an inflatable ball and rolled down a hill at high speed.

The firm held a raffle and two of the firm’s driver’s even auctioned themselves for blind dates to raise more funds.

Overall the cash-raising cabbies gathered £2,500 for the cause – giving £2,000 to Jessica’s family and the remainder to the village primary school.

Lisa said: “It was amazing, the response was absolutely brilliant.”

“I went round to see her the other night and the family got the new chair out to show me. I have to admit I got a little teary-eyed.”