Family stunned by Cromwell community's generosity for son with cerebral palsy

Three-year-old Harry Finch is "determined" to walk one day.
Three-year-old Harry Finch is "determined" to walk one day. Photo credit: Givealittle

A Cromwell family is awestruck after a weekend that saw their community band together to give their son the chance to walk.

Three-year-old Harry Finch was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby. The spastic diplegia in his leg muscles mean he can't stand up by himself, and the chances of him ever walking were slim.

But all that could be about to change.

On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of Cromwell residents converged on a construction site to help build two container homes. Once completed the houses were sold, and the proceeds - totalling around $100,000 - will go to Harry's family.

More than 50 companies got involved in the community project, and Harry's dad Hayden says there were 20 to 30 volunteers working at a time over two "surreal" days.

"What a brilliant weekend," he told Newshub.

Builder and friend of the family Derek Craig was behind the initiative. He got in touch with Finch in September and told them he was going to build a house and give them the money - which Finch says he did for another couple 10 years ago.

"It's just unbelievable, the amount of hours of work, getting all the Council consents," Finch says. "It's unreal."

He and his family have just returned from a six-week trip to the US, where Harry underwent a spinal operation only performed by a handful of specialists around the world. If performed at a young age, selective dorsal rhizotomy can reduce spasticity enough to give a child a real chance at learning to walk independently.

After receiving the letter that Harry was on the waiting list for the in-demand procedure - an "amazing" moment - the family faced the mammoth task of raising $150,000 for the trip and surgery.

They got the money together through a variety of creative fundraisers, including a bingo night, a Zumba class and a mass cheese roll sale - 12,000 baked in a single day.

"It was daunting at the start, but as soon as we put it out on Facebook we were overwhelmed by support and fundraising offers," Finch says.

Despite never being a "social media guy", he's been amazed at the constant offers of help from strangers from all corners of the country. Dave McClelland from Married At First Sight NZ even chipped in, auctioning off his ill-fated wedding ring on TradeMe.

"It taught us if you need help for anything, don't be afraid to ask," Finch says. "It's really opened us up. It's the New Zealand way, and we'll be the first to offer help when others need it."

Harry's legs were once too crossed to walk or ride a bike - but in the weeks since his operation, that's beginning to change.

"We had nothing to lose, but we didn't realise the difference it would make," Finch says.

"His legs are pretty straight now. There'll be lots of hard work ahead, but the surgeon is pretty confident Harry will be able to walk one day."

That hard work will mean physical therapy four days a week as well as a swimming lesson.

"He's basically been brought back to day one of a baby learning to walk."

Finch hopes his family's story will raise awareness of selective dorsal rhizotomy and its life-changing benefits for kids with cerebral palsy.

He says his young son is "definitely" aware of how much his community supports him and his journey - and he's got his eyes on the prize.

"He's a determined wee boy, he wants to walk everywhere."

Twin brother Ollie is helping Harry every step of the way, often with the aid of a ride-on toy car.

"Ollie's grown up a lot in the last few weeks. He's always been a great brother."

Harry and Ollie turn four on Thursday, but Finch says it will be a low-key birthday after the family's hectic past few weeks.

"They just want cake."