Mystery donor vows to make Richard's football dream come true at last
The mother of a seriously ill Ulster teenager last night said she was thrilled after a mystery benefactor pledged funds to help make her son's lifelong dream a reality.
Fanatical Manchester United supporter Richard Douglas (14), from Donaghadee, who is confined to a wheelchair, was just three years of age when he was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
But, with his condition rapidly deteriorating, his worried mother Sharon (39) contacted this newspaper to express fears that Richard, who attends Fleming Fulton School, may soon be unable to go to Old Trafford to see his hero Ronaldo in action.
In response to an article published in Saturday's Belfast Telegraph, however, a local businessman has vowed to fund a trip for the family to the Theatre of Dreams, as well as to try and get his hands on tickets for a match.
"I was very moved when I read the story," the property magnate, who asked not to be named, said.
"We run a family business and we just want to do something to help the young fellow. We don't want to make a big deal out of it. We will provide money for Richard and his family to go to Manchester to watch his team play in a match and we are currently doing our very best to get our hands on some tickets."
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, primary school teacher Sharon, said she was extremely moved by the kind gesture.
"Richard is so excited about the prospect," she said.
"He is eagerly waiting for something to be confirmed and it will be a dream come true for him. We are just so thankful that some kind person has come forward to him to do something he has always wanted to do.
"He's also a wee bit nervous, after all the publicity, because he is a very shy person, but I know how much this means to him and how much he appreciates it."
She added: "It's also moving to know that someone is doing this out of pure kindness and not to obtain publicity."
Mrs Douglas, who is a single mother-of-two, explained that her eldest son's health has been a source of concern for some time.
"The last few weeks have been particularly difficult," she said.
"Richard is normally so independent, but his muscles have been deteriorating over the last couple of weeks. He has been asking for help to operate the controls of his wheelchair.
"And now that he's finding it much more difficult to use his hands, it's also hard for him to play his Playstation and use the television remote control."
DMD is one of the most prevalent types of muscular dystrophy, which is a severe muscle wasting disease that occurs early in life.
It is eventually fatal as their is no known cure.
Mrs Douglas added that, despite extensive surgery designed to keep him on his feet, Richard lost the ability to walk four and a half years ago.
"He needs all aspects of personal care - toileting, showering, and he has to be lifted in and out of bed. Two carers come every morning and evening to help," she said.
"But is has always been his dream to go to Old Trafford to see a match and the players. He has been fanatical about Manchester United since he was a toddler. His hero is Ronaldo.
"We joined MUDSA (Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association) four years ago, but I still haven't been able to get him across to fulfil his greatest wish.
"Now that a kind person has agreed to help, Richard has something to look forward to. It means so much to us."