Pupils from Sulivan Primary School and Fulham Bilingual teamed up with Teo Catino of ll Pagliaccio restaurant to raising more than £2,000 to help a classmate by making pizzas.
The pupils held a pizza making fundraiser on 9 February at the Wandsworth Bridge Road restaurant to help eight-year-old Caya Newman – who suffers from spastic diplegia (a form of cerebral palsy) and needed an expensive surgery in America.
The Sulivan Primary School student is recovering from the life-changing surgery she had in January and is already managing to move her body in ways she simply could not before the operation, according to mum Lucy Machin.
However, her family and friends are still battling to find the funds to foot the remainder of the medical bill despite all the generous donations.
So the restauranteur, Teo, 50, stepped in and welcomed Fulham Bilingual in Clancarty Road and Sulivan Primary School in Peterborough Road to his restaurant in Fulham to learn the fine art of pizza making.
After a lot of tossing and twirling, the little fundraisers baked their pizzas and then deservedly tucked into their doughy creations.
Later that evening, things got a lot messier when there was a no hands spaghetti eating challenge for the adults which went down a treat with the spectators in attendance.
“When I heard about Caya’s story I was moved to tears and decided that we had to do something to help her family with the huge bill they have to pay,” said Teo.
“Every parent knows the pain of seeing their little ones suffering so I could not just sit back and do nothing for sweet Caya.”
Lucy has been overwhelmed with the level of support from the local community for Caya as each donation edges them a little closer to their target after collecting more than half of the £41,000 they need.
“I am absolutely speechless. The amount of help we have had from local people and beyond has been amazing,” said Lucy, of Townmead Road, Fulham.
“Teo and Il Paggs put on a beautiful fundraiser for all the family and I am so grateful for all their support which will help us to pay for Caya’s aftercare. She is doing so well now and able to do things she was never able to do before which is a joy to see. We feel very blessed.”
Lucy and her friend Jemma Greenslade completed a gruelling marathon walk around South Park last year to raise funds for the operation. This includes £31,000 for the surgery and another £10,000 for ongoing physio and aftercare. The costs fell to Lucy after NHS funding was stopped for the selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) procedure to cut the nerves in the spinal cord that contributed to Caya’s condition.
Even Formula One champions Lewis Hamilton, Damon Hill and Fernando Alonso have helped drive up the Caya fund after donating signed equipment and clothing for an auction.
Caya now needs six months of intensive physiotherapy – and will continue to need physio for the rest of her life.
If you would still like to contribute to Caya’s ongoing aftercare visit her fundraising page.
Meanwhile, big-hearted Teo recently raised over £5,000 for the victims of the Italian earthquakes when he auctioned off a date with EastEnders star Ted Reilly, who plays Johnny Carter in the BBC1 soap, at one of his charity auction nights attended by H&F Mayor, Cllr Mercy Umeh.
Teo, who lost a cousin and friends in the 1980 Irpinia earthquake which killed more than 2,400 people, said he ‘felt a duty’ to help the victims of the latest quakes to hit his homeland.
West End star Madalena Alberto, who starred in Evita, performed on the night with all proceeds going to Italy’s Protezione Civile.
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