Chippenham teenager is the winner as match raises £2,500

This Is Wiltshire: Ben Conolly (centre) surrounded by football players, supporters and his family Ben Conolly (centre) surrounded by football players, supporters and his family

Hundreds of people pitched in to support Chippenham schoolboy Ben Conolly at a football match on Tuesday.

Sixteen-year-old Ben has no feeling from the chest down after developing a tumour on his spinal cord.

Four of Ben’s friends, two from Sheldon School, at which he is a pupil, teamed up with members of Corsham Youth FC to play Swindon Town Youth FC at Corsham’s grounds, in a match organised by family friend Simon Bray.

The match raised more than £2,500 towards cutting-edge treatment that could enable him to walk again.

Ben’s mum Suzi said it was an emotional evening and she was overwhelmed by people’s kindness.

She said: “This is an incredible sum that will go a long way towards treatment at the private centre in Watford. We’ll wait until Benjamin’s a bit stronger so he can get the maximum benefit, as chemo is still knocking him for six.”

Ben, who has been in Bristol Children’s Hosp-ital since October receiving treatment, managed to watch the match himself, though he was still hooked up to a machine an hour-and-a-half before kick-off.

Mrs Conolly, 46, said: “To see my son’s face light up to be with his friends, and to see a smile that I haven't seen for so many months, it was brilliant.

“We could not believe the difference in Benjamin afterwards, it’s done him the world of good. We drove back to Bristol and all he could talk about was how much he had enjoyed the evening. His dad Sam and I feel elated to see him so buoyed up. He wanted to go out for lunch and was talking about getting new trainers.”

The match was a 1-1 draw and an auction also helped to boost funds.

Neil Spurdell, headteacher at Sheldon, wrote in the event programme: “It is testament to Ben’s popularity and strength of character that so many want to do something to help.”

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