A PLUCKY youngster who has battled against a rare disability to lead a normal life with his family and friends has been hailed as a true unsung hero.
In the face of strong competition, 10-year-old Matthew Parry has been selected as the 2015 Summer Star at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham.
Matthew was chosen because of the courage and determination he has shown in overcoming the chromosome deletion condition he was born with called Cri du Chat which affects only one in 50,000 children.
In the early days the prognosis for Matthew, who lives with his parents and older brother in Bersham Road, Wrexham, was unknown and his mum and dad were told that he probably would achieve very little and spend his life in a wheelchair.
But Matthew defied to odds to walk unaided, say a few words, communicate using a computer and even share a joke.
It is his sheer determination that has seen him land the coveted title of Summer Star at Eagles Meadow after a search for young heroes aged 11 or under was launched recently by top children’s TV producer Nia Ceidiog.
BAFTA winner Nia, who was brought up in Coedpoeth and went to Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, wrote the original Fireman Sam stories in English and Welsh and has a long list of credits including the popular series, Something Special, for CBeebies.
Nia said the kind of young people eventually chosen as Summer Star and runner-up would be “shining examples” to their peer group.
The big search, which also attracted the backing of Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, saw nominations come flooding in from right across the area – including a glowing one for Matthew from Carol Gardner, Charity Manager at the Wrexham-based Dynamic centre for children and young people with disabilities which he attends weekly.
Carol said of him: “Matthew had been born into a loving family who were not going to give up on their new arrival, and Matthew too had a will and determination that no one could have predicted.
“Over the last 10 years, thanks to support from his supportive family, school and Dynamic, Matthew has grown and developed into a friendly, cheery young person with a character you cannot help love.
“Matthew has learned to walk unaided, has limited speech, but communicates in a number of ways including pictures and signing.
“He can make himself understood and understands simple instructions and conversations.
“He can now play with his peers within groups and is often the one to make everyone laugh.
“Matthew still has many hurdles to overcome, and still requires a lot of support in order to be part of his Dynamic group, however if the last 10 years are any measure then who knows what the next 10 will bring?
“None of the above would have been possible without his personality, grit and determination to be a significant part of his family and the wider community – to be able to take part with his peers.”
As the Eagles Meadow Summer Star winner, Matthew will have his name inscribed on a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame at the shopping centre and his prizes include a £25 voucher from The Entertainer toy shop, a family tickets for Tenpin and the Odeon and a voucher for a family meal at Frankie and Benny’s worth £50 plus a voucher worth up to £30 from Nando’s.
Matthew’s proud mum, Ann Parry, said: “We’re just overwhelmed that he’s won the Summer Star title and I’d like to thank Carol at Dynamic for nominating him and the people at Eagles Meadow for choosing him.
“The determination Matthew has shown to overcome such a severe disability has been just amazing.
“The doctors said they thought he’s never walk but just a week after his seventh birthday he took his first independent steps.
“Until then he’d been walking with the aid of a frame but one day he just walked away from it to go it alone.
“He can’t go very far on his own without tumbling but he just gets up and tries again.
“We were also told Matthew would never talk but he does say a few words and the rest of the time he communicates using an iPad with a special programme which allows him to pick out things he wants, like crisps or biscuits, or to move to another part of the room.
“He’s also got quite a sense of humour and points at things he doesn’t really want just to get us going!
“His real passion is animals and he loves to take horse riding lessons at a special centre for disabled riders. He also likes going to see the sheep at the farm run by his grandparents.
“At home we have three dogs and they all have fantastic temperaments, which means they just sit there when he plays with them – sometimes a little roughly.”
Ann added: “Sometimes children get the condition Matthew has passed on to them from one of their parents but his dad, Gareth, and I have had all the tests and neither of us has got it.
“Our other son Callum, who is 14, doesn’t have it either, so we don’t know exactly how Matthew ended up with Cri du Chat.
“We just think it’s great the way he has done his best to overcome it, to communicate with us and children of his own age who he meets during his weekly visits to Dynamic and at school.
“He was really well supported at Y Canol, which he has just left before moving on to secondary school at St Christopher’s in Wrexham in September.”
Runner-up in Summer Stars is a young lad who loves to dress up as an octopus.
Nine-year-old Evan Milner, of Acrefair, spends lots of his spare time in the green and white costume of Mini Ollie, the official octopus mascot of AVOW, the support organisation that helps voluntary and community groups in Wrexham.
He was nominated by AVOW’s chief officer, John Gallanders, who said: “Evan, whose mum Victoria works as our business support manager, has acted as our Mini Ollie at a number of community events.
“He thoroughly enjoys his time as the mascot and asks to get into the costume which represents an octopus that has many arms, the same as volunteers helping everyone.”
Evan, who is a pupil at Ysgol Acrefair, is also a star of the football field and plays for Cefn United who voted him manager’s player last season.
Proud mum Victoria said: “Evan loves to be Mini Ollie and can’t wait to get into the costume.
“He’s very popular at the events he attends as the mascot and gets lots of children coming up and hugging him.
“He’s over the moon to be the runner-up Summer Star and I’m very proud of him.”
Evan will receive the runner-up prizes of family tickets for the Odeon and Tenpin along with a voucher for a family meal at Frankie and Benny’s worth £50.
Eagles Meadow manager Kevin Critchley said: “Both Matthew and Evan are real stars in their own right.
“My heartiest congratulations go to our two winners and I’d also like to thank everyone who made the nominations to our Summer Stars.”