Pop star Gareth Gates has thrown his support behind a fundraising campaign to send a baby girl to America for a life-changing operation.
The Bradford singer admitted the plight of 17-month-old Nicole Vendettuoli, who has cerebral palsy, pulled at his heartstrings.
Now Gareth, who met the cute, cheerful tot at her home in Oakworth, near Keighley, last night, is backing an attempt to raise at least £70,000 so Nicole can go to St Louis for the operation.
He was initially asked to go on a video clip highlighting Nicole’s condition. Instead, he decided to go a step further.
Gareth said: “When I am able to, I like to help out with as much of these things as I can. Her story pulled at mine and all our heartstrings, so to come round here and show some support is the least we can do.
“I thought that if I could help raise as much money as possible, as well as interest and the profile, it is a good thing.”
Gareth also met with Nicole’s parents, Tom, 27, and Candice Vendettuoli, 24, at their home on Harewood Crescent. Mrs Vendettuoli said: “We didn’t expect all this. It is absolutely fantastic – I didn’t expect him to get in touch.”
Nicole was born three months premature and had a brain haemorrhage, which led to her cerebral palsy. Her left arm and both her legs are stiff, making sitting, crawling and walking impossible.
Mrs Vendettuoli said the operation might not get Nicole walking, but added that it would relieve her from the pain she suffers because of tight muscles.
On Nicole having the operation, Mrs Vendettuoli said: “It would mean the world. We would pay every penny out of our pockets if we could.
“Obviously, walking is not the be all and end all, but to give her some freedom. Getting rid of the pain is our main motive.
“It will improve her quality of life whatever. She has good cognitive and eating skills – it’s just a physical thing for Nicole. Just being able to roll onto her front or to grab a toy would be good.”
The operation would make the tightness Nicole suffers from disappear and allow her to use her muscles like a normal child.
“The earlier they get it done, the better,” she said. “Two is the youngest she can have it done. It’s four in the UK and it’s not on the NHS.”
The operation could happen as soon as next January, said Mrs Vendettuoli, which is why they are keen to start fundraising as soon as possible.
Supermarket giant Asda, who Mr Vendettuoli works for, has pledged to do a month of fundraising at 20 stores.
A bank account called Nicole’s Wish to Walk will be set up for people who want to donate. The account is likely to be ready within two weeks.