Residents and businesses in Merthyr Tydfil have raised the money needed so five-year-old Mia Chambers can go to America for a clinical trial
A fundraising drive, which has seen an entire Welsh town unite for a little girl suffering from cancer, has topped £170,000.
In recent weeks shops, businesses, cars, and homes in Merthyr Tydfil and the surrounding area have been decorated with bows made with coloured ribbon.
The show of solidarity is part of a fundraising campaign to help a little girl called Mia Chambers.
Rainbows in Merthyr have become synonymous with the youngster in recent months.
The five-year-old has been undergoing treatment for cancer and her parents have been appealing for donations so they can send her to America for a clinical trial to avoid a relapse.
She first became unwell in early 2016 after suffering from vomiting and bouts of fatigue.
Originally thought to be down to a nasty sickness bug, a lump was eventually discovered in her stomach.
After undergoing some tests, parents Kirsty Mahoney and Josh Chambers, from Merthyr, were horrified to learn the mass was cancerous.
Mia was immediately transferred to the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital for Wales in Cardiff and further tests confirmed the lump was stage four high risk neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that mostly affects babies and young children.
Since diagnosis, Mia has been through a multitude of aggressive treatments and procedures including three months of intensive chemotherapy, surgery, a stem cell transplant and radiotherapy.
With cancer experts saying patients with neuroblastoma have a high rate of relapsing, Mia’s family believe her best chance of avoiding that is to undergo a clinical trial in the US.
Her family have been fundraising with Solving Kids’ Cancer, who support children and families affected by neuroblastoma.
They provide a range of specialist support services to families affected by neuroblastoma, and also fund research that is essential to push treatment forward and improve outcomes for children.
On Thursday the family announced that Mia’s fundraising campaign with Solving Kids’ Cancer has raised £172,000 to date.
It is more than what is needed to secure Mia’s access to a clinical trial in Michigan and to cover the associated costs of accessing the treatment over two years.
It is hoped Mia will travel to Michigan at the end of July to start the trial.
The clinical trial aims to help keep her cancer away and, while there are no guarantees, there is a chance that it could save her life.
Any funds raised above what is needed will be held for a period of five years post-treatment, which is due to end in 2019.
If Mia does not need additional funds the money will be used to help other children and families affected by neuroblastoma.
Mia’s parents, Josh and Kirsty, said: “We as a family are eternally grateful.
“Never in our wildest dreams did we think this was achievable in such a short space of time.
“You have all helped make our hopes and dreams come true for our rainbow warrior; here’s to the next step.”
Stephen Richards, chief executive of Solving Kids’ Cancer, said: “We are truly impressed and humbled by how the local community has rallied together to support Mia and her family, raising the funds she needs incredibly quickly.
“The chances are that without this support, the family simply wouldn’t be able to realise this opportunity for their daughter because of the significant costs attached to accessing clinical trials abroad and all the associated costs that come with it.
“We are therefore incredibly grateful to everyone who’s got behind Mia’s campaign with Solving Kids’ Cancer.”
Rainbow Day was held in Merthyr on March 31, sparking people in the Valleys town to add rainbows to their profile pictures on Facebook, while children wore bright colours to school.
Since then thousands of residents have covered the town with rainbow-coloured bows.
Suzanne Edwards, of Suzanne’s Florist on Brecon Road in Merthyr, has managed to raise thousands of pounds for the campaign by making and selling thousands of rainbow ribbons.
Last month parents Josh and Kirsty described how they will be forever grateful to those who have helped their little girl.
Dad Josh, 27, said: “Merthyr is a small community with an amazing heart because of what everyone has done for her.
“We never in a million years expected this response. The way it’s actually taken off, I still don’t understand it.
“Without these people’s support, we wouldn’t have been able to have that chance open to us. We will be forever grateful.”
Mum Kirsty, 28, said: “We just want everybody to know how thankful we are.
“Without them, we may never see her grow up. It’s been absolutely phenomenal – and she’s none the wiser! She just says ‘I’m going to America’.”
This article was first published by WalesOnline.