A TIARO family is launching a fundraising blitz to transform the life of their disabled son, hoping to access breakthrough treatment in the United States of America.
Ryder Sweetnam is five years old, enjoys a good tickle, a dip in the pool and has a spirit burning so brightly it charms those he meets.
But life hasn't been easy for little Ryder. He was born with calcifications on the brain, cerebral palsy, epilepsy and vision impairment. He cannot walk and talk like other children his age.
Ryder's family, parents Janene and Darren and brother Rhett, 9, hope to raise $30,000 by Christmas to send him to the US for cutting-edge treatment at the NAPA Treatment Center.
The NAPA Treatment Center offers intensive therapy and is potentially life-changing.
New technology that would be accessible as a result of a trip abroad includes the Therasuit, helping the brain and body reconnect through nerve stimuli placed within the suit.
Mrs Sweetnam was visiting Australia Zoo yesterday for a family day out after another battery of hospital visits and medical appointments in Brisbane. Ryder successfully had had surgery on his hips to improve his mobility.
"It's a special day for us as a family," Ms Sweetnam said.
The weather obliged yesterday with the family of four keen to explore Australia Zoo when Ms Sweetnam spoke with The Gympie Times.
"We're not expecting miracles," she said.
"We are taking a realistic approach about what this treatment could achieve.
"Even Ryder just learning to drink through a straw would be worth 20 grand for us. It's life changing."
The overseas treatment gives Ryder the chance to improve his strength to hold his head up more and to support himself, making every day activities so much easier.
"It would be such a big difference," Mrs Sweetnam said, her voice full of emotion.
Mrs Sweetnam said the $30,000 required to fund a trip overseas to access the centre's services was beyond the couple's means.
The pair owns and operates the Tiaro Foodworks.
"We have a mortgage and everyday expenses like every other family and this is just money we don't have," she said.
So far $2000 has been raised thanks to a raffle and the early support is leaving Mrs Sweetnam lost for words.
"We felt very isolated at one point, especially being in a small community without immediate access to a lot of therapy services," she said.
"But now as we reach out and ask for help, we suddenly feel big warm hugs around us. It's empowering."
Helping light the path for the Sweetnam family is the story of another little boy, Blaise Wyatt, which aired on the 60 Minutes television program earlier this year.
"It has given us courage to we, too, can embark on a journey for Ryder," Mrs Sweetnam said.
Mrs Sweetnam plans to meet Blaise's mother, Dawn, in Brisbane for support.
The fundraising drive for Ryder continues this Saturday with the Maryborough Players coming to Tiaro with their Legend of Quasimodo Revisited performance.
The show starts at 1pm at the Tiaro Memorial Hall with proceeds going towards the cause. For bookings, drop in or contact Tiaro Foodworks (Shop 2, Mayne St) on 4129 2138.
Meanwhile, another fundraiser is taking place at the Gundiah Pub on Saturday, September 21.
A family fun day with jam session, jumping castle, kids' activities, pig races, cow paddy bingo, market stall and raffles is planned.
Anyone wanting to help support the Sweetnam family can send cheques or money orders to Ryder Sweetnam, Tiaro Post Office, Queensland, 4650.
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