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Tractor run through south Warwickshire for Baby Reece

THE family of a baby born with a cleft lip and palate are staging a festive tractor run for charity.

More than 17 tractors, polished and decorated with fairy lights, will make a three-hour round-trip from Lower Quinton to Meon Vale next week.

The parade, on Saturday 2nd December, will go through 11 towns and villages including Long Marston, Welford, Clifford Chambers, Stratford, Ettington, Darlingscott, Ilmington and Shipston (see the map below).

Money raised will go to the Cleft Lip and Palate Association (CLAPA), which grandmother Ulrike ‘Ully’ Dale describes as “very close to our hearts”.

Ully’s 15-month-old grandson Reece was born with a cleft lip, bilateral palate, gum notch and affected nose and has already had two lots of surgery.

The first operation, when Reece was just six months old, lasted eight hours, while the second was just before his first birthday.

Babies with a cleft often can’t form a vacuum with their mouths, as it’s like trying to suck through a straw with a hole in it, so they can’t feed from a breast or regular bottle.

Reece is fed from special bottles and teats, used and recommended by NHS cleft nurse specialists.

CLAPA, which raises all its own funding, supplies two free bottles and teats to families of cleft babies, as well as offering one-to-one support.

Map showing the route. Image: De Villiers Photography
Map showing the route. Image: De Villiers Photography

Ully, who lives in Lower Quinton, explained: “CLAPA has been there for our grandson and family from before his birth, through his first and second operations and hopefully, will be there for his next operations.”

Reece, who lives in Meon Vale, will need more surgery, including a bone graft, and is likely to require long-term speech and language therapy.

Ully added: “He has a lot more operations to come – we don’t know how many but we do know it’s going to be a long, hard road.”

There are nine specialist NHS cleft teams in the UK, and the nearest of these for the family is at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Claire Cunniffe, chief executive of CLAPA, said: “One of the hardest things is when people have a diagnosis of cleft, it often happens at the 18- to 22-week scan, where most parents go in thinking ‘We’re going to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl’.

“It’s a happy moment but for a lot of people when they receive that diagnosis – not just of cleft but any condition – it can cast a shadow over the pregnancy, because it’s a condition they don’t know much about.

“We hope they might be reassured to know the support is there, and whilst there is a journey and there will be times when it’s challenging, that a baby with a cleft can lead as good a life as anybody else and there’s nothing to stop them achieving anything they’d do if they weren’t born with a cleft.”

Warwickshire company DW Clark Drainage is lending several John Deere tractors for the festive run, and Santa is rumoured to be also hitching a ride.

There is also a prize for best decorated tractor on the night, sponsored by John Deere tractor dealer Farol.

There’s still time to register a tractor and join the run and the family are also seeking volunteers willing to spare an hour to rattle a charity bucket along the route.

Poster for the tractor run. Image: Emma-Jane De Villier
Poster for the tractor run. Image: Emma-Jane De Villier

Ully added: “We’re aiming to raise awareness of what cleft lip and palate is, because everywhere we go, we have to explain.

“We also want to raise much-needed funds for CLAPA, but also to spread a little joy and happiness.

“If this charity Christmas tractor run is a success, we’re hoping to make next year’s even bigger and turn it into an annual event.”

Anyone wanting to donate can do by going to www.justgiving.com and searching on ‘Christmas Tractor run fundraiser for Cleft Lip And Palate Association’. There will also be collection buckets on the night.

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