Fitness enthusiasts go the extra step to help Wigan boy get his own therapy dog

Fund-raisers climbed the equivalent of the world’s tallest building to help get a new friend for a five-year-old boy.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 11:00 am
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 2:59 pm
Taking part in Andy's Step Challenge held in Total Fitness, Marus Bridge are, from left, Dave Cadman, Salvo Catrona, Anthony Hayes, Andy Pinkerton, Nicky Andrews, Shirley Ward, Stef Hurst and Paul Johnson

An eight-strong team took to stair climbers at Total Fitness, in Marus Bridge, on Saturday to scale the height of Burj Khalifa in Dubai .

They were raising money to buy a therapy dog for Freddie Winnard, from Orrell.

He has autism and has never spoken a word, but his mother Stefanie Hurst believes a dog could make a huge difference for him.

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Andy Pinkerton and Freddie's mum Stef Hurst

Her friend and colleague, sport therapist Andy Pinkerton, decided to raise the £8,000 needed for a dog and organised the physical challenge at the gym where they work.

The group used the stair climbers to cover the equivalent of the building’s 160 storeys while Freddie met a therapy dog.

Mr Pinkerton, who lives in Winstanley, said it was a challenge to climb all the steps and his legs continue to ache when he goes upstairs.

But he was delighted with the huge amount of support the venture received.

Participants at Total Fitness in Marus Bridge

He said: “It was fantastic, it was a great day. We had a great time. It was well-supported by all the friends and families.

“I think we went some way to raising the money we need. Now it’s about the pledges. We have to get them in and let people know we have completed the challenge and collect the money.

“Hopefully by the time we have got it all, from looking at what we have, we seem to be spot on target.

“We are still running a raffle and have an auction to do, so hopefully we can achieve more and go some way to helping another boy or girl get a dog.”

He said they were “over the moon” with the event.

Reaching the fund-raising target should mean the wheels will be set in motion to get a therapy dog for Freddie, who is a pupil at St Aiden’s Primary School in Billinge.

Miss Hurst, who works as a physiotherapist, said: “When he was born he had to have emergency surgery to form his bowel together. It was a little bit touch and go from there, so he was in hospital for a couple of weeks. He came out and has had a few issue since then.

“When he was two-and-a-half, he was diagnosed with autism. He is still non-verbal, he has never said a word.

“His developmental age is roughly just under two years. He has got severe sensory needs. With that he is classed as sensory seeker as he puts things into his mouth that he shouldn’t really do - stones, mud, toys, anything to get that sensory need.

“He is constantly running and climbing. He never sits still. He struggles to concentrate and focus on a task.”

Miss Hurst and her partner Dean Winnard have tried several things to help Freddie, including working with a speech therapist and using sign language.

But he still needs one-to-one assistance all the time and they now hope a therapy dog will help.

Miss Hurst, 31, who also has a two-year-old son named Ollie, said: “We are hoping a dog would encourage some more social skills and independence skills for him to grow.

“The aim is that it calms his sensory needs so he is allowed to be able to focus. There is research that because a dog is a good companion, it helps with speech.”

Sponsors are now encouraged to hand in their money to the fund-raisers.

There is still time to support the appeal, with raffle tickets available to buy at Total Fitness ahead of a draw tomorrow.

Donations can also be made at