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Seriously ill boy given dream home makeover when DIY SOS came to town
IN nine days, and with the help of hundreds of local tradesmen, the BBC’s DIY SOS team was able to make one Bartestree house a home for the family of a seriously ill seven-year-old.
Just 18 months ago, Chris Gibbons was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a debilitating condition that causes his muscles to weaken and limits his life expectancy.
Among the most important things for parents Claire and Colin was that Chris would be able to go where he wanted in his own home, and not to be confined to a couple of downstairs rooms.
Chris already has to use a wheelchair, and to transform their house could have cost up to £200,000.
Claire and firefighter Colin were told the disabled facilities grant would not cover work to make their upstairs accessible.
Nevertheless they were determined that they would not be “split up” from Chris in their own home.
“It was important that he could be upstairs with us,” said Claire. “It’s his home, we didn’t want him stuck downstairs.”
Unbeknown to the family, their next door neighbour had got in touch with Nick Knowles’ team at the BBC.
Out of the blue, the family got the call that would change more than just the bricks and mortar of their Wilcroft Park house.
“It’s all been surreal,” said Claire. “We had no idea our name had been put forward – it’s been like a whirlwind.
"We only found out about Chris’s condition in February 2012. It’s still very raw for us.”
That whirlwind saw between 90 and 100 tradesmen on site every day, many working 12-hour days free of charge as the team completed a project that would ordinarily take up to four months.
As well as installing a lift, the crew extended the house to create a wet room for Chris.
They will also be returning to fit out additional facilities at Chris’s nearby Lugwardine Primary School to accommodate children with special needs.
“It’s been an amazing job,” said Nick Knowles.
“At one point we were in real trouble. It didn’t look like we were going to have enough guys – but we put the word out on social media and tradesmen from all over the country came to help out. For these guys, they can fit a new kitchen for someone who can afford it – but doing something like this, for free, it gives them a chance to really change someone’s life.”
While mum and dad tried admirably to hold their emotions together the day the work was officially revealed, Chris was all smiles. He joined little brother Ben in high-fiving crew members and helped present Nick with a cake.
“We want to say a big thank you to all our neighbours and friends for their support and their patience,” said Claire, who will continue to raise awareness of the condition by running in the Cardiff half-marathon in October.
To support her, visit justgiving.com/Clare- Louise-Gibbons .
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