Fantastic Fred Howe has had an “incredible year of adventures” thanks to the kindness of Mirror readers who helped him tick the experience off his wish list of things to see before he goes totally blind.
Fred has scaled the Eiffel Tower, met Mickey Mouse, been a zookeeper for a day and a train driver for another, been for a jaunt in a limo with the Mayor of York, hunted for fossils and skied in the Austrian alps.
He was joined on his adventures by mum Karen Newell, 47, dad Dave Howe, 46, and his 10-year-old sister Eva.
Karen says: “For me this year was all about making memories together and with everyone’s help we sure did make a lot. I’m overwhelmed by the response.”
Earlier this year we told how eight-year-old Fred was facing the “doomsday scenario” of losing his sight entirely due to a degenerative condition and wanted to see as many sights as he could before it happened.
At their best, one eye can only perceive light and the other sees see up to just two metres. His story captured the public’s heart and he was flooded with offers to help his list.
Thanks to the generosity of readers and tourist attractions across the UK and Europe, Fred has had an action-packed year.
Fred says: “Every experience was good and different.
"One day we were feeding lemurs at Flamingo Land, the next week we were sleeping in a king’s tent and being a knight at Warwick Castle.”
He was also given the best seats in the house at York Theatre Royal, visited Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary and received a gift of an Xbox One from Nether Pixel Studios.
Fred says: “My Xbox from Nether Pixel Studios is great because I play on it every day.
"The developers are making me my own map and they sometimes let me see what they are making. I love speaking to them and my friends.”
His visit to Disneyland Paris was the “biggest surprise ever”. He says: “I loved meeting Mickey and his friends. The rides were cool too.”
Karen has been thrilled to see how Fred has grown more confident with each new adventure. She says: “I have seen a real change in Fred’s approach to life.
“He is a more confident boy in unfamiliar surroundings now. He feels more assured in himself and is thriving.
“He was so brave at his last appointment at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
“It has made a difference to his confidence, trying other things and learning to adapt to new surroundings.
“He’s now up for new experiences instead of being wary of them because of his sight.
“It’s great. These are life-long skills. You have to do things in your life that are different and it increases your resilience.”
The incredible adventures have also created fabulous memories for Fred and his family, who live in York.
Karen says: “It has been having these experiences together as a family that has been really important, especially for his sister Eva. These have been beautiful shared memories.
“They are really great. I will have the moment when Fred pinched Mickey’s nose etched in my mind for ever.
“Other images include Fred’s sheer joy when he skied down the slope for the first time. Every experience has brought joy in its own special way.”
Karen is grateful to everyone who has helped make Fred’s year so magical.
She says: “Especially the people who have ensured that each experience was made accessible for Fred, like getting so close to the animals. The people we’ve met have made it really special.
“They have taken it upon themselves to make the experiences adaptable to Fred’s needs. I’m always trying to change people’s perception of disability.
“We don’t want to see them as an object of pity, we want to celebrate their life achievement and that’s what people have helped us to do.”
Fred’s wish list for 2019 includes visits to Legoland, the Harry Potter studios and the Lion King in the West End.
He has already been promised a trip to the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, Bucks, a TransPennine train journey and a Cumbria safari.
He has also been offered the chance to see huskies in Sweden and to dive with sharks at Blue Planet Aquarium in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.
Karen says: “At times we have felt overwhelmed at the kindness and the experiences Fred has been offered.
“As I lie next to him at night recounting our adventures, his eyes light up as he relives them once again.
“The generosity we have received reminds me of a quote that the Royal Society for Blind Children is promoting – In our dreams we see forever.
“Fred’s visual memory bank is so much richer now and full of so many sights, smells and faces.”
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