Help us to pull off a massive DIY home make-over

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The back garden is overgrown, the boiler is condemned, the kitchen is a write-off and the loft has beetle rot.

These are just some of the problems which await Aidan Jackowiak Smith’s family at the property they are due to move in to shortly.

In its current state, the Alnwick-based house would not be suitable for any family to move into, let alone one which has to accommodate Aidan’s specific needs.

His parents, Karl Smith and Vikki Jackowiak, are in this position because of the love they have for their three-year-old son; the desire they have to give their brave lad a better quality of life.

Their Shilbottle home is not adequately suited for the youngster, who has Cloves Syndrome, as he grows up.

It has forced them to look elsewhere. They are set to be handed the keys to their new home, at Fire Station Cottages, on July 11.

Under normal circumstances, this four-bedroom property needs substantial work doing to it.

But this is no ordinary case. The house needs to be transformed into a home fit for Aidan.

It requires the installation of a lift from the dining room up to his bedroom. Doors need to be widened to allow for wheelchair access. A new entrance, with ramp, is to be built at the side of the house.

The family also hopes to create a special sensory garden and a decking area, where a dilapidated conservatory currently stands.

Then there’s the issues of replacing the boiler that doesn’t work, tackling a damp issue, rewiring the electrics and sealing a hole in the living-room ceiling.

There’s also decorating and plastering to do.

The back garden, which is horrendously overgrown, needs clearing and landscaping, while the guttering is overflowing with weeds and moss.

Last month, when the Gazette spoke to the family following Aidan’s six-hour-long operation to remove 319 grams of fat from his face and neck, Karl told us that he was gearing up to complete the major DIY job by himself.

Transforming the house would be a huge task for anyone, let alone someone, like Karl, who has no renovation experience.

With no cash to throw at the property, the 36-year-old, who is a full-time carer for Aidan, was preparing to work around the clock to get the house ready for his loved ones to move into.

If that wasn’t ambitious enough, Karl was aiming to make the house habitable within a month.

In the meantime, the family, which includes Aidan’s teenage brother Daniel, will move in with Vikki’s parents.

After hearing this, the Gazette, along with Alnwick firm MKM Building Supplies, has decided to step in and take action.

Today, we are launching our Aid For Aidan campaign. We are issuing a community call to arms to help transform this property for the family, to make this house a home.

Our DIY SOS-themed initiative is looking for kind-hearted helpers with varying skills to come forward and lend their services, experience and expertise to this huge renovation.

A project manager is already in place and we are appealing to tradesmen, businesses and residents to step up to the plate and help the cause.

Gazette editor Paul Larkin said: “We are making this rallying call to the community to help the family. It is a huge challenge. A lot of work needs doing to the house and garden, especially to make it suitable for Aidan’s needs.

“Aidan’s story has already captured the hearts of Gazette readers, who over the last year or so, have dug deep and raised an enormous amount of money to help the family pay for expenses, such as hospital trips.

“But we are calling on our readers to come forward again and help to make this house a home for Aidan and his family.

“We want to do this as cheaply as possible, if not free, with donations of equipment, supplies and labour. The community has already proved how generous it can be and I’m sure we can all work together to give this house the makeover it needs to move in the family in the next few weeks.”

Gordon Webster, branch director of MKM, said he was only too happy to help and the firm is helping to co-ordinate the work.

He said: “When I first read about Aidan in the Gazette, I was touched by his bravery and what he has been through.

“When I heard that the property needed renovating, I wanted to come forward and help the family and MKM is happy to co-ordinate this work.”

Each week, we will be running stories on the Aid For Aidan campaign, including progress made at the property and a roll of honour of businesses and tradesmen who have come forward.

To find out how you can help, contact the Gazette on 01665 602234 and ask to speak to Paul Larkin or James Willoughby.

Alternatively, call Gordon at MKM on 01665 606977.


In the words of his doting parents, Aidan Jackowiak Smith is a miracle, unique, and a little fighter.

The brave Shilbottle tot, aged three, is certainly all of those things.

It wasn’t until after Aidan was born on Boxing Day 2010 that mum Vikki and dad Karl found out there was something different about him.

He had swelling to his face, ear and neck, and developed swelling on his back. One foot was also much larger than the other.

Aidan, who was born two months’ premature, was also suffering seizures.

For more than two years, despite numerous tests and appointments with specialists, medical experts were unable to put their finger on his health problems.

It wasn’t until the end of last year that little Aidan and his family, which includes older brother Daniel Jackowiak, were given a diagnosis.

He has a severe form a Cloves syndrome, which is a recently-discovered and complex so-called ‘overgrowth syndrome’.

So rare is the condition, that only around 130 people have been diagnosed worldwide.

The family is hoping to make a conference in Boston, USA, in 2016, which will be attended by doctors and researchers of Cloves,

It will enable the family to find out more about the disease.

He may only be three-years-old, but Aidan has already gone through more than most people can ever imagine.

In October last year, he endured lengthy surgery at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Six hours and more than 80 stitches later, medical staff had removed 319 grams of fat from his face and neck.

It took a while for the tot to bounce back, but the operation has made a difference to his way of life; helping his breathing and allowing him to hold his head better.

It has certainly been a long, battling journey for Aidan, and there is still a

long road ahead, with further surgical procedures expected to follow.

However, no matter what comes Aidan’s way in the future, the family can rest assured that they will not have to tackle it alone.

His ordeal has touched the hearts of our readers, ever since he first appeared in the Gazette 14 months ago.

A community fund-raising appeal led to around £11,000 being collected for the family, helping to pay for costly and regular trips to hospital, to the likes of Newcastle and London.

The family has received emotional support, while children and staff at Alnwick’s Barndale House School, which he attends a few afternoons a week, also love him.

His grateful parents, who attended a special garden party last week at The Alnwick Garden to recognise some of the county’s unsung heroes, have said that the community’s help has been overwhelming.




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