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Thousands give tanks to NI boy Charlie Lowe (9) for his DIY VE Day creation

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Charlie Lowe and his DIY VE Day tank

Charlie Lowe and his DIY VE Day tank

Charlie Lowe and his DIY VE Day tank

It's been a VE-ry special weekend for a Co Down youngster whose DIY tank went viral after his proud mum posted pictures online.

More than 25,000 people - including celebs and military - have hit 'like' and sent messages of support on the Facebook post shared by Saintfield mum Jo Jarvie of her nine-year-old son, Charlie Lowe, who decided to build a cardboard tank to celebrate VE Day.

Charlie, who has autism, had been struggling with lockdown and living in isolation with his mum, who can't leave the house because of a lung condition.

Building his tank - made out of boxes sent to him by his granddad - and the huge reaction online has been life-changing for the P5 Academy Primary School pupil.

"For the first time since all this kicked off I feel I've got my Charlie back," said mum Jo. "It kept him occupied for hours and, from doing the sketches to making it, it was all his own work.

"He was delighted with the build but it's the response he's had from other people that has been such a boost to his confidence and self-esteem - he thinks he's famous! For the first time since lockdown he's smiling and content."

I honestly could cry, I'm so happy. I just can't believe that so many strangers have done this for my boy Jo Jarvie, mum

As well as more than 25,000 people liking Jo's post, put up on the Facebook group Family Lockdown Tips and Ideas on Friday, the smiling snaps of Charlie in his tank have been championed by autism support groups and the UK's Tank Museum. Former Hollyoaks star Will Mellor posted to his 14,000 social media followers, praising Charlie's cardboard creation as "the coolest invention to show support for the troops on VE day".

"The Royal Air Force sent a video to say thank you and we've had messages from New Zealand, Singapore, Africa ... all over the world," said Jo.

"I honestly could cry, I'm so happy. I just can't believe that so many strangers have done this for my boy."

Now that the photos have travelled around the world, she's hoping someone very special to Charlie might see them. "It would be the icing on the cake to get a message from David Walliams," revealed Jo. "Charlie listens to him reading Grandpa's Great Escape every single night - and has done for over a year. He'd love him to see his tank."

Not only has Charlie found it hard missing his friends and routine of school but he's also been separated from his little brother and sister, Cameron (4) and Jasmine (3), who have had to live nearby with their grandparents because of Jo's health and need to self-isolate.

"It's been a tough time," says Jo. "I just pray everyone will stick to the guidelines and hopefully we'll all be able to see each other in June in time for Cameron's birthday."

Belfast Telegraph