Norwich man’s hitchhiking challenge for charity

Hitchhiking may no longer be a common method of transport, but that is not stopping a Norwich man giving it a go to try and help send a young girl with cerebral palsy for a life-changing operation in the USA.

Stephen Collings, 47, saw the story about five-year-old Grace Windram on television and felt compelled to try and do something to help the youngster.

That is because Stephen, who lives on Rose Lane, remembers the moment he got to see his daughter, Kayleigh, take her first steps and wants to help Grace's parents one day enjoy the same memory.

Grace, who lives in Northampton, has used a powered wheelchair since she was two- years-old and despite intensive physiotherapy, has never been able to walk.

But now she has been given hope as she has been accepted for an operation in the USA called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR), which could eliminate the spasticity (tightness) in her legs.

Coupled with further intensive physiotherapy, this procedure could see Grace walking with a walking frame and maybe even walking short distances on her own.

The operation, along with related expenses and therapy, costs around �50,000 and Grace's family are working with The Tree of Hope children's charity to raise this money.

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So Stephen is hoping he can contribute to Grace's fund with a week of hitchhiking around the country next month, repeating a successful charity hitchhike he completed for Live Aid in 1985.

Between Sunday, October 16 and Friday, October 21, Stephen will try to get around the country using just his thumb and a sign to flag down lifts, starting from Thickthorn Services at the Norwich end of the A11.

He said: 'I remember how elated I was when my daughter took her first steps at 15 months and Grace's parents have never been able to experience that.

'I know this will directly benefit Grace because when I rang her parents to ask if I could do this I had a 45-minute conversation with her mum and her first question was why do you want to help us?

'I said that if I can help even just a little, then I would like to.'

Stephen raised around �12,000 in 1985 and got to Exeter, Land's End, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and host of other places, but knows hitchhiking is not as easy in 2011.

He has set his sights on raising �500, so if you see a chap wearing a T-shirt with a Tree of Hope logo on around Thickthorn Services on Sunday, October 16, he would greatly appreciate a lift southwards.

For further information and to watch a video of Grace's story, go to, or donate by going to or text 'Grac55 �1' to 70070, adjusting to the amount you wish to donate.

Do you know someone who is raising money for charity? Call new Local Life editor Richard Wood on 01603 772423 or email