Mum of Leeds girl, six, who cannot walk or talk launches UK charity for extremely rare condition

The mum of a six-year-old Leeds girl with an extremely rare and potentially fatal condition that has left her unable to walk or talk has launched a UK charity to fund research and offer support  to other families.

By Mark Lavery
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 10:30 am

Zoe Lightfoot was a healthy baby who was developing normally, but she could not walk by the age of two and had started to lose her coordination and balance.

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Zoe was aged two-and-a-half when she was diagnosed with infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy (INAD), which causes a progressive loss of sight and physical and mental skills.

Zoe Lightfoot, six, pictured with dad Steven Lightfoot; mum Christine Hamshere and Zoe's brother Alex, two, at the launch of charity at Leeds Civic Hall. Photo: Steve Riding

Since the diagnosis Zoe's condition has gradually deteriorated and she has lost her mobility, her speech and the ability to move her head.

Zoe's parents Christine Hamshere and Steven Lightfoot, of Bramley, know she can see and hear them because she laughs and smiles.

Christine said: "It has been very difficult watching her struggling.

"She is a really brave little girl and we are proud of her. She is amazing."

Zoe Lightfoot, six, pictured at the launch of charity at Leeds Civic Hall Photo: Steve Riding

There are currently believed to be just nine children in the UK diagnosed with the condition, which usually means an affected child dies between the ages of five and 10.

Christine said the condition is so rare that there has previously not been a charity in the UK where families can turn to for support after diagnosis.

Christine and Steven are part of a small team of family and friends who have launched the charity

Zoe Lightfoot, six, pictured with dad Steven Lightfoot; mum Christine Hamshere and Zoe's brother Alex, two, at the launch of charity at Leeds Civic Hall. Also pictured is Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun Asghar Khan. Photo: Steve Riding

They are hoping businesses will support the charity, which is aimed at providing grants to promote medical research into INAD.

Lord Mayor of Leeds Coun Ashgar Khan and child actor Willow Bell, who plays Millie Tate in Emmerdale, joined Zoe and her family for the launch event at Leeds Civic Hall.

Civic buildings in Leeds were lit up in charity colours of blue and green to support the launch.

Zoe was one of only 19 children worldwide picked for a drug trial.

Zoe Lightfoot pictured aged three in November 2018. Photo: Bruce Rollinson

Since launching a fundraising effort, Christine and Steven have seen people donate more than £28,000 to fund Zoe's treatment in the USA.

The drug trial is helping Zoe but the ultimate aim is to find a cure.

Christine said her family has been helped by charities including Leeds Mencap, Martin House Hospice and Little Hiccups, but there has not been a dedicated UK charity for INAD until now.

Christine said: "When Zoe was diagnosed there was no UK support. INAD is so rare that there is nothing out there to help families.

"There wasn't a UK charity we could turn to that was specific for the condition.

"We want to try to raise money to fund research to find a cure. There is research going on globally at the moment and we want to contribute."

Current research includes gene therapy at Great Ormond Street Hospital, that is progressing to human trial, and the repurposing of existing drugs testing by New York Stem Cell Foundation.

For more information and details on how you can help, go to charity

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