Britain’s ‘friendliest plumber’ donates £13,000 to give a seven-year-old boy a bionic arm
Britain’s ‘friendliest plumber’ has donated almost £13,000 to fund a new bionic arm for a football-loving young lad who was born without a right arm.
Charity champion James Anderson, 55, from Burnley, Lancashire, made the generous gesture after being touched by Alex Sparkes’ touching story.
Alex’s mother Dionne Sparkes, 33, from Oswaldtwistle, launched a bid to raise £12,700 for the arm so the seven-year-old could throw in a throw-in like his football club’s other team-mates.
The Blackburn Rovers season ticket holder dreamed of getting a blue and white robotic arm with his team’s rose emblem.
And he was shocked when James told him on Tuesday night: “I just paid for your new arm.”
Charity champion James Anderson, 55, from Burnley, Lancashire, has offered to pay nearly £13,000 so Alex Sparkes (pictured) could get the bionic arm he had dreamed of
To the surprise of his mother and the birth team, seven-year-old Alex was born without an arm in what was described as a “sporadic” incident. Pictured as a toddler
A moving video capturing the moment shows Alex spouting with joy at the news.
He said, “I want it so badly.” It would make me happy. It would mean the world to me.’
Dionne said she had no idea he was missing a limb until her “wayward” son was born in hospital without a right arm.
And she said while the boy is “loved” by his friends, over the past few birthdays he’s “wished” for his arm to grow back – only to be told it wasn’t possible.
But Dionne said his new arm would be life-changing following James’ generous donation at his home.
She said: “It’s life changing for us, and James just did it out of the kindness of his heart.”
“I never thought anyone would be so nice. When James called me yesterday, he just said, “Send me your bank details and I’ll send them to you.”
“As soon as we left his home, the three of us embraced intimately. And when we got in the car, we started screaming.
“Alex said, ‘I’ve got a new arm!’ He absolutely loved it.’
James has been dubbed ‘Britain’s friendliest plumber’ for refusing to take money from his elderly clients
Alex was born after childbirth. His mother, Dionne, explained that the fact that Alex didn’t have an arm wasn’t visible on her pregnancy scans
Little Alex, pictured as a baby, wants to be “normal”, said his mother Dionne, adding that James’ generosity has been “life-changing”.
Alex as a toddler. Dionne revealed that on his birthdays, the football fan wishes his arm would grow back
James, whose company has helped Depher millions, fell in love with Alex after Carl Everitt, co-owner of a local hockey club, told him about his fundraiser.
He said: “His story intrigued me. If there’s anything Depher can do, it’s this. The arm will give a little boy his life back.” I fell in love with him.
“He will remember it for the rest of his life and it will make his life a lot better.” It will bring a little boy back to life.
“It was a humbling experience getting to know him and it was wonderful to see his smile when I told him.” It was an easy decision.
“He’s smiling and happy and getting on with his life.” “It’s just wonderful to see a little boy go through so much and just want to be as normal as possible.”
Alex attends a soccer game with his father Robin (left) and mother Dionne (right), who started his fundraiser
Alex, pictured recently, with an adult prosthetic arm. At the age of eight, the seven-year-old will soon be fitted with a real prosthesis
Dionne said she had a normal pregnancy and didn’t expect Alex to be born with only one arm after her scans came back clear.
And the mother-of-one said she would never forget the “silence” that fell across her labor ward when she mentioned to nurses that her son didn’t have complete limbs.
She said: “At 36 weeks they did a scan.” One of his arms could be seen and it looked like he was waving – like he was showing his arm.
“They said his other arm was behind him, and I remember thinking, ‘At least he has 10 fingers and 10 toes.’” That stuck with me.
“I was in labor for 20 hours and then they let me hold him for a few minutes before they took him away.”
“But when I looked at him again, I said, ‘What is that?’ Is he missing an arm?’
“The silence was just something I’ll never forget.” But when they brought him back he was using his arm as a pacifier – he was sucking on it – and he looked so adorable.”
Doctors later investigated the reason for Alex’s missing limb and concluded that it was a “sporadic event” that happened by accident.
But sadly, Dionne, who works for betting company Ladbrokes, said young children were “scared” of him when he first went to school after they spotted his single arm.
And he’d also spent his birthday “wishing” his missing arm would reappear.
James, whose company has helped Depher millions, fell in love with Alex after Carl Everitt, co-owner of a local hockey club, told him about his fundraiser
She said, “Alex just wants to be normal.” On his fifth birthday, he wished his arm would grow back. I had to tell him that he couldn’t wish for such a thing.
He was on a list of patients to have an NHS prosthetic arm even before the pandemic, but three years later she said he’s still waiting.
Dionne then attended an Open Bionics trade show, which is making a robotic arm so advanced that its wearer can pick up a pin with their fingers while using their remaining muscles.
And when he first tried on one of her prosthetics, the mother knew she had to find the money for it somehow with her teacher husband Robin, 32.
She said: “When Alex turned five, we heard about Open Bionics and put his name in, but they said he must be at least eight years old as they hadn’t made it small enough.
“We then went to the Open Bionics Event. We were there to get a feel for it. I said to my son, “Don’t ask me because I don’t have any money.”
“But they had a prototype on the table, and when he put his arm in it, the fingers opened straight away.
“I looked at him and I started to swell. And I said, “I have to do this.”