Goalkeeping dreams for Kai are saved thanks to a glove firm's helping hand
Christmas has certainly come early for one young Belfast football fanatic after a special delivery made his dreams of being a goalkeeper come true.
Nine-year-old Kai Evitt was born with a condition called ectrodactyly - a bone deformity that means he is missing some bones and digits on his hands and feet.
When making his Christmas list a few weeks ago, the schoolboy had asked for a pair of goalkeeping gloves so he could be just like his favourite player, Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea.
Sadly Kai's condition meant this was no easy task as the regular gloves sold in most sports shops were unsuitable.
His godmother Ashlea Irvine took on the mission to make his dream a reality. She contacted various sports companies including Adidas, Nike, Puma and even the British Paralympic Association to try and get a custom set designed, no matter what the cost.
Ashlea said: "The reality of this hit me quite hard - it wasn't a simple task of taking Kai into a sports shop and letting him have his pick as none of the regular gloves would cater for his hands.
"I could not let it go from my mind and I wanted to do everything I could to try and get him some gloves."
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While the big firms all acknowledged her email but were unable to help, Ashlea was slowly running out of steam.
Then she came across Kaliaaer Goalkeeper Gloves who replied to her request within hours.
The Scottish company supplies gloves to top level keepers and is owned by current Partick Thistle goalkeeping coach Kenny Arthur, who asked for a picture of Kai's hands and treated him just like one of his top clients.
Ashlea said: "Kenny asked for more details and he said that he would try and help if he could.
"I instantly felt excited as my efforts finally seemed like they were getting somewhere.
"Following the initial contact we were emailing back and forth with information and photos of Kai's hands."
Five days later Ashlea was stunned to receive an email with a first draft of a custom set of gloves for Kai.
The P5 pupil at Glenwood Primary School ended up receiving two pairs of complimentary gloves and the special gift means he has now joined his local football team Shankill Juniors.
Ashlea added: "Kai has been through numerous hospital tests and operations his whole life and does virtually no complaining.
"He is such a good child and has the 'get up and get on with it' attitude and let's nothing get in his way. Even from a very early age he became so independent, learning to do normal every day tasks his own way."
Kai's Arsenal fan mum Deborah McKee (31), a former Linfield FC mascot, said what might be a small gesture to some has proved to be life-changing for her son.
Deborah added she and her partner Darren (29) will forever be grateful to Kenny for coming to their son's aid.
"Kai has always said that he just wants normal hands so now that he has his gloves, he's just like everybody else," she said.
"Because of his condition, Kai tires very easily running around so being in goals is perfect for him as he doesn't have to move as much.
"When he joined Shankill Junior his coaches kept saying he needed gloves and we just didn't know what to do.
"Other kids take it for granted that they can just get their football gloves and go, but sadly it wasn't like that for Kai.
"We even have to buy his football boots three sizes too big because of the size of his feet
"He's over the moon with the gloves and he can now join in with his friends on the team so it means there's no stopping him."
Deborah, who is also mum to three-year-old Ariana, added: "They say not all heroes wear capes, but in our eyes they will always be our heroes for what they have done for us and Kai."
Yesterday Kenny Arthur said: "It was the least we could do, our whole reason for existence is to help the goalkeepers' union as much as possible.
"Seeing how happy Kai was with his gloves is what it's all about for me and the rest of the Kaliaaer team."