Katie Taylor with Rory Gallagher.
Little Rory Gallagher is halfway to his dream of walking, following life-changing surgery early last year in the United States.
Now his parents, Shauna and Gerry of Cliffoney in County Sligo, want to make sure their 4-year-old son, who has cerebral palsy spastic diplegia, returns to the States in December for the further surgery he needs before he can fulfill his dream of independent walking.
“He’s halfway there. We want to get him all the way,” Shauna said.
Irish boxing star Katie Taylor has already thrown her support behind Rory and his family, visiting the boy last week in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, where the Irish Olympian delivered a bag of toys during an hours-long visit.
Shauna and Gerry are hoping the public will also get behind the campaign to fund Rory’s coming surgery, by supporting a sport celebrity-studded fundraiser next month that will feature Katie and a number of other well-known athletes.
When Rory was eight months old, the couple had been told that their son would be using a wheelchair by age 3 and would be non-verbal. However, their research found a neurosurgeon at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the US state of Missouri who thought Rory was an ideal candidate for a surgical procedure that he believed would allow the boy to walk.
Family, friends and other supporters raised €120,000 to send Rory to St. Louis for the surgery, which included a selective dorsal rhizotomy and a procedure to stop the scissoring of his legs.
Rory, who at age 2 was the youngest Irish child to undergo the surgery, now walks with the help of a frame; he took his first steps eight days after the surgery.
The surgery was life-changing, Rory’s mother said.
“This surgery allowed this child to walk,” Shauna said. “It’s more than we could ever, ever have wished for.” She said three days after the surgery, the boy wiggled his toes for the first time.
“He’s wants to do everything himself,” Shauna said of her son, adding, “It’s the most amazing story.”
“I’m so proud of him,” she said.
To continue Rory’s progress and to keep him pain-free, orthopaedic surgery is now required on his ankles and on his hip, which is 30 per cent dislocated; and surgery on his eyes, which will allow the vision in his right eye to improve.
The family plan to return to St. Louis Children’s Hospital in December for the surgeries.
Next month, Katie Taylor will be joined by Donegal boxer Jason Quigley, Belfast boxers Michael Conlan and Paddy Barnes, and a large number of well-known celebrities in Sligo on October 8th, as they take on the Hell & Back Fundraiser Challenge, known as Ireland’s toughest mental and physical endurance challenge, to support the campaign for Rory.
Anyone wishing to Join #TeamRory can do so at www.rorygallagherswishtowalk.com.
A big after-party is planned for that night at the Bourbon Bar in Sligo, with comedians Al Foran and Stevo, aka Farmer Michael, providing entertainment.
Shauna and Gerry hope people will sign up to the fundraiser and come along to the after-party, which will finish in style at Lola Montez
A gofundme page has been set up for Rory, and the family are appealing to the public to donate and help them enable Rory to progress with his wish to walk at www.gofundme.com/roryswishtowalk.