A GROUP of friends are gearing up to scramble round the county to raise funds for one-year-old cancer patient Reece Barends.

Reece celebrated his first birthday last Sunday ahead of his fourth round of chemotherapy for neuroblastoma. He has already had surgery to remove part of a tumour from his spine.

His parents Ashleigh, 32, and Stuart, 28, moved to Cape Town in South Africa from Swindon two years ago and are now facing huge bills for his treatment.

Briony Curtis, 29, is part of a group of Ashleigh’s former colleagues at the Toni & Guy hair salon in Swindon who are raising funds, and her seven-year-old son, Timmy, is even organising events at his school.

The friends are on target to raise more than £1,000 ahead of the Wiltshire 12k Scramble on Sunday, and are planning a series of further events during the summer, including an attempt to complete 40 haircuts in 40 hours.

Briony said: “Reece is doing well and has regained his mobility. He had lost the use of his lower body before the spinal operation. Doctors were unsure whether he would ever regain enough strength, but he is now standing on his own.

“The bills are still escalating, and are rising higher than initial estimates of around £8,500.

“Stuart has had to take time off work, and Reece is now on a special diet – which is very expensive – to support his body.

“But he is responding well, and they want to do everything to keep that progress going.

“They don’t want him to go into remission.”

Briony said Timmy is taking part in the Wiltshire Scramble fun run.

“Timmy is really excited about doing it,” she said. “He asked what he could do to help.

“All his teachers have sponsored him and he has been going round other parents, and has raised £50 already.”

Reece became quite ill during his birthday, and Ashleigh posted an update on the day to her Facebook page. She said: “This time last year I was looking into his eyes for the first time, feeling excited about his life, his future and our new lives.

“I would never have imagined that a year later things would be like this. I am still excited about his life, it is just a different one to what I had dreamed for him.

“But I know this new life is going to make him an amazing soul, and it is also making me a better person.

“This is such a hard and scary thing to go through, we just have to take it one day at a time, but I am so glad Reece chose us as parents. I wouldn’t want anyone else going through this with him.”

To sponsor the team, visit www.gofundme.com and search for ‘Reece our Hero’, or donate via Paypal by emailing reeceourhero@outlook.com