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Sittingbourne couple light up home to thank charity which has helped blind granddaughter


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A Sittingbourne couple have lit up their home to support a charity which has helped their blind granddaughter.

Mark and Julie Murphy have spent more than £1,000 on the multi-sensory display in Vectis Drive, which features a holographic Santa Claus, LED unicorns, a ferris wheel, and a real life Santa who gives out lollipops to children.

Grandparents Mark and Julie Murphy with Santa Claus. Picture: Annika Murphy
Grandparents Mark and Julie Murphy with Santa Claus. Picture: Annika Murphy

The illuminations, accompanied by festive music and fake snow, will run daily from 6.30pm until around midnight on Christmas Eve.

The lights will remain up for around a week after, however.

It’s all in aid of their nine-year old granddaughter Anya Bourne, who was registered blind at six months of age.

The youngster, of North Street, was born eight weeks premature, contracted menigitis at six weeks old, and has had to have two operations for a heart defect.

She also has a condition called nystagmus, which causes an involuntary movement of the eyes, as if they are wobbling. She has not lost all of her sight but she struggles with her peripheral vision.

Anya Bourne, aged nine, was registered blind at only six months old. Picture: Annika Murphy
Anya Bourne, aged nine, was registered blind at only six months old. Picture: Annika Murphy

Mum Annika Murphy, said: “She’s fought so hard to be here.

“When he learned about her eyes, we were very worried because the doctors told us she would never have a normal life.”

Over the past five years, the young girl’s grandparents decided to raise funds for Blind Children UK, which has been supporting Anya since 2015.

Part of Guide Dogs, the charity has helped her adapt to school life, highlighting the steps at Regis Manor Primary, as well as providing text books and worksheets with enlarged font.

They are also working to provide her with a support dog to help with her anxiety around strangers.

The house has more than £1000 of lights all over.
The house has more than £1000 of lights all over.

Annika, 37, said: “My parents had the idea when Anya was having a lot of trouble in explaining to us what she could or couldn’t see.

“At that time we got such a great support from the charity and that we thought it’d be nice to raise money for them.”

Mark, who is a 62-year old telephone engineer, and Julie, a 63-year old nail technician, spend around three weeks each year setting up the Christmas lights.

About £40 has been raised since December 11, but Mark and Julie are hopeful they will pass the £750 raised in 2019 and maybe get to £1,000 this year.

Annika added: “I’m so proud of my parents and Anya absolutely loves the lights. They’re in their 60s and they’re so involved with it. We asked mum if she wanted to come with us to the Canterbury Christmas market, but she called us to say she couldn’t as she needed to be home at 6.30pm to turn the lights on for Anya. What they do is absolutely amazing.”

Anya, aged nine, with her mum Annika. Picture: Annika Murphy
Anya, aged nine, with her mum Annika. Picture: Annika Murphy

You can make a donation at the family’s fundraising page by going to tinyurl.com/SElights or stopping by Vectis Drive.

A Guide Dogs spokesman said: “We would like to thank Mark and Julie who are supporting their granddaughter Anya, and for being part of our Guide Dogs family, helping us to provide life-changing support to those that need it.

“We know that this year has been challenging for us all but acts like this not only help create a wonderful festive atmosphere but help people with sight loss live the life they choose.”

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