An amazing tale of a brave young girl with an incredibly rare eye condition has brought communities together in the search for a cure.
Two years ago, Matilda Henley was diagnosed with Corneal Dystroph, which causes clusters of painful cysts to develop on the surface of her eyes.
The eye condition is so rare that a cure has not been researched.
Now Aylesford School history teacher Elizabeth Keell will run year’s London Marathon in aid of a four-year-old.
Elizabeth, who has her own personal battles with distorted vision, will join thousands of other runners next Sunday.
But it will be thoughts of little Matilda Henley, from Kenilworth, who will be most in the Warwick teacher’s mind as she tackles the 26.2 miles.
The little girl became immediate friends with Elizabeth’s own four-year-old daughter, Poppy, when they met on their first day at Thorns Primary School in Kenilworth.
Elizabeth said: “Chatting to Matilda’s mum Claire over those first weeks, I learned there was no cure for this rare genetic condition but that the charity Fight for Sight is working to find the faulty gene and develop advanced treatments.
“I know Matilda is in terrible pain sometimes and cannot open her eyes for days on end - but she is a lovely little girl and for most of the time she just gets on with it.”
Elizabeth’s own vision is distorted but it doesn’t stop her running. She is gradually losing the sight in her left eye but has put off having a cornea transplant until her own two children, Poppy and Lucy- Alice, aged six, are a little older.
The 34-year-old said: “I’ve also decided to raise money for RNLI in memory of my late dad, John Gray, who I know would have been more than happy to share any sponsorship if he knew what a speicial little girl Matilda was.
“All the staff at Aylesford have been very supportive and my students are encouraging.
“Thanks to my husband Simon looking after the girls while I’m out training, I’m getting as ready as I can to take on my first marathon.
“And I’ve already been promised more than £1,600 in Gift Aid.”
To support Elizabeth, or find out more, visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ELIZABETHKEELL