Neil’s 27 ways to help children in need

James Dodd, seven, mum Angela Barton and dad Iain Dodd meets multi athlete Neil Harper,in black T-shirt, in Hemel Hempstead on Monday.
James Dodd, seven, mum Angela Barton and dad Iain Dodd meets multi athlete Neil Harper,in black T-shirt, in Hemel Hempstead on Monday.
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An athletic engineer is working his way through a list of 27 gruelling physical challenges to raise vital cash for a disabled children’s charity.

Neil Harper, 37, of Leverstock Green, most recently completed the notorious 3 Peaks Challenge, climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, all in aid of The Lily Foundation.

James Dodd, seven, mum Angela Barton and dad Iain Dodd with family friend Neil Harper, in black.
 James' dog is called Douglas.

James Dodd, seven, mum Angela Barton and dad Iain Dodd with family friend Neil Harper, in black. James' dog is called Douglas.

The charity supports seven-year-old James Dodd, the son of Neil’s friends Iain and Angela, who live in Connaught Close, Adeyfield.

Young James was first diagnosed with life-limiting mitochondrial disease at the age of four, meaning certain cells in his body do not produce enough energy.

The Hobletts Manor Junior School pupil is a bright, happy little boy even though his mobility problems means he now spends a lot of time in a wheelchair.

Sporty Neil, who has known Iain and Angela for around five years, was touched by James’ enthusiasm for life despite his challenges and vowed to tackle a huge list of charity events including half marathons, obstacle courses, Tough Mudder and Iron Man ompetitions.

Talking about the 3 Peaks Challenge, which he completed with eight pals, he said: “It was tough and we all struggled at times, but we managed it and we thought about the children like James who are affected by this disease.

“James is permanently in pain and in a wheelchair but he just carries on. He’s a real inspiration.”

Since beginning the mammoth task in January, Neil has raised more than £1,200 for The Lily Foundation and hopes to grow this figure even more in the next few months.

He has smashed 16 out of 27 challenges so far, leaving him 11 left to go before December.

James’ mum Angela is overwhelmed by Neil’s dedication to raising money for children like James.

She said: “We can’t thank Neil enough for what he is doing. As well as raising money, he’s raising awareness about mitochondrial disease.

“James is a happy, funny, cheeky little boy. Mentally he’s bright as a button, and when he’s well you would think he’s the same as any other child his age.

“It’s a physical disability and though he’s continuing to do well, he’s now using a wheelchair to get around.”

To donate, visit Neil’s Just Giving page here.