Wheelchair user Mia takes on ice skate challenge

By Gemma Ryall
BBC News

media captionMia completed her ice challenge in front of a cheering crowd

Mia is a girl who will not take no for an answer.

So when she decided she wanted to learn to ice skate to raise money for charity, warnings from her doctors and concern from her parents did little to deter her.

Mia is 10 and has congenital hemiplegia, a form of cerebral palsy. She has to use a wheelchair to help her cope with mobility issues, pain and exhaustion.

She is also prone to disc dislocation and has a weakness down the right side of her body.

But despite this, she dedicates her spare time to raising money for charity and campaigning to improve life for disabled people, winning awards for her dedication.

She was told that learning to ice skate would put huge pressure on her body and increase her pain and fatigue - to cope, she would have to increase her twice-daily physiotherapy sessions.

But Mia, from Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff, simply responded: "It has to be hard to get people to sponsor me."

She took three months just to balance on her skates and she spent days recovering after each weekly practice session, exhausted and aching from all the falls.

But Mia said it was all worth it when she skated across the ice in Cardiff's Ice Arena Wales in front of a cheering crowd at the Allstars Weekend ice hockey match to score a penalty, raising more than £6,300 for children who need help.

image source, Dave Williams
image captionMia set herself the challenge to skate across the ice and score a hockey penalty

"It was really hard because I fell a lot doing it and I hurt a lot learning to skate," Mia said.

"But when I finished my challenge I felt really happy because I managed to score my first ever goal on the ice."

It was a moment that her parents, Karene and Robert, thought they would never see.

"When Mia was diagnosed at 18 months the doctors said she would never walk and that we'd be lucky if she spoke in full sentences," Karene said.

But their little girl defied the odds - by three, she was able to stand holding a chair for support and she took her first unsteady steps just before she started school.

However, life can be hard for both Mia and her parents.

image source, Karene Thorne
image captionMia's condition can leave her exhausted after physical exertion
image source, Karene Thorne
image captionMia's parents were told she would probably never walk

"There are a lot of sleepless nights because Mia's condition affects the right side of her body, which is very weak," her mother said.

"If she turns onto her side in her sleep she can't move back and she wakes up in pain. So we wake up every hour and a half to turn her over.

"Mia also wants to be like all her friends and run around playing. But she has to pace herself - 20 minutes of fun for her can mean two days of pain.

"We're on first name terms with the staff at A&E because her joints dislocate so easily.

"And with it comes a lot of anxiety for Mia. I'd say it's increasing the older she gets. She worries over anything and everything.

"She has days where a lot of frustration comes out and she takes it out on her older sister Megan. We have had the comment 'why can't Megan have bad legs and not me'. It is hard for her."

image source, Karene Thorne
image captionThe family went on holiday to Florida thanks to a charity

It was Mia's longing for normality that drove her to start fundraising.

In 2012, the Dreams Come True charity, which gives opportunities to children with life-limiting conditions, gave Mia and her family a holiday in Florida.

"I don't think people know the implications of having physio every day and having to go to hospital so I think the holiday gave her a lot of normality and a break from it all," said Karene.

"Ever since then she has wanted to give back and also help other children"

image source, Dave Williams
image captionMia won two awards for her fundraising at the Allstar Weekend

Mia added: "I wanted to help people who have conditions like me so they wouldn't get any worse."

She now spends her free time fundraising for charities and campaigning to improve the rights of disabled people.

Last year, she was presented with the Princess Diana Award and this year she was shortlisted for the Young Fundraiser of the Year, both in recognition of her charity work.

She was presented with two awards after her ice skating challenge last week and has been made an ambassador for Caudwell Children, a charity which provides support for disabled children and their families.

She also visits the Senedd in Cardiff Bay to meet with assembly members to discuss changes she would like to see brought in for disabled people in education and housing.

image source, Karene Thorne
image captionWelsh Secretary Alun Cairns supported Mia in her challenge

Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns supported her during her ice skating challenge because, as her mother said, "Mia was inundating him with emails".

Karene said: "She is one stubborn, determined girl - her ice challenge shows that. She is an inspiration but it caused me a lot of sleepless nights as I do worry about her."

And there may be more worry to come - Mia said she is keen to carry on with the ice skating and is already planning her next fundraiser, a ball at the Celtic Manor, which she is organising with her sister.

"I just want to keep raising money so people can get breaks from hospital - it's not nice when you always have to go to hospital," she added.

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