From Wheelchair to Horseback: 8 Year Old Jessica Pays Tribute to Amanda

An eight year old girl is travelling by pony from Dumfries to Boreland next  month in memory of Amanda Saville, founder of  The Chariots of Fire Driving Centre, near Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, who died earlier this year.  Jessica Hyslop, from Kingholm Quay, will make the 35 mile journey, riding and driving her pony Dougal, in tribute to the woman who transformed her life, and to raise money to ensure others can benefit in the same way.  Jessica, who is profoundly deaf and has Cerebral Palsy, has attended sessions at the Chariots of Fire Centre for the last five years and has made remarkable progress as a result. When she was born, weighing just 1lb 8oz, doctors warned that she would be unlikely to be able to communicate, and her Cerebral Palsy would probably confine her to a wheelchair. It was a chance meeting at Tesco which changed all that, according to Jessica’s mother, Angela.

‘I was given a leaflet by someone in the Rotary Club when Chariots were holding a sort of Open Day at Tescos in Annan’, she recalls, ‘So I rang the number, took Jessica over soon after, and she’s been a different girl ever since. That trip to Tescos completely changed our lives.’

The Chariots of Fire Driving Centre in Boreland near Lockerbie, specializes in using ponies to work with people with disabilities, building confidence, and self esteem as well as developing their motor skills and communication skills.

‘Jessica rarely uses her wheelchair these days’, says Angela ‘and that is entirely due to the staff and ponies. Her core muscles, which used to be too weak to support her, are now so strong that she can ride a horse, never mind walk around without a chair!.’

Jessica, like everyone involved with the Chariots of Fire Driving Centre, was shattered by the death, in February, of it’s founder Amanda Saville, after a long battle with cancer. She is also very relieved that Amanda’s colleagues at the Centre are carrying on her work, supported by the charity Sports Driving Unlimited. Rosemary Flexney of SDU remembers Jessica’s first visit; ‘Angela walked through the gate at the top of the yard, pushing what looked like a little doll in a wheelchair and said “Can you help me?”. That was over five years  ago, and she’s been coming here ever since. It’s been just wonderful to see her progress. We are so proud of her’.

‘This sponsored carriage drive and pony ride was entirely Jessica’s idea’ says Angela, ‘She wanted to do something to show her appreciation of  Amanda and to raise some money to ensure the work goes on.’

Jessica will be making the journey, on horseback and by pony & carriage, on the 9th & 10th July.  You can sponsor her online at  www.localgiving.com/missj  or by forwarding donations to Sports Driving Unlimited.

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