A massive community DIY makeover has helped a family with a disabled son move into their new home in time for Christmas – and they say it is the best present they could have.
The delighted parents of Aidan Jackowiak Smith, three, admit they are overwhelmed by the support they have received during a major campaign to renovate their Alnwick house.
Kind-hearted volunteers, from professional tradesmen to the man on the street, have rallied to turn the dilapidated Fire Station Cottages property into a family haven suitable for the tot, who has a rare medical condition.
The incredible community effort was sparked at the start of July when the Gazette, in conjunction with Alnwick-based MKM Building Supplies, launched the Aid For Aidan appeal.
And just four months on from our initial call for help, the property has been transformed and the family has moved in. Aidan’s dad Karl Smith said: “The community has turned our house into a home and we are so grateful. This is our forever home and to be in for Christmas is the best present we could have.”
Aidan’s mum Vikki Jackowiak added: “We want to thank everyone who has come forward and we see everyone who has helped us as friends. I didn’t think we would get the house of our dreams, but that is exactly what we have got.”
It wasn’t always like this though. When the family, which includes Aidan’s brother Daniel Jackowiak, purchased the house in the summer, they were confronted with one heck of a renovation job. The back garden was overgrown, the guttering was overflowing with weeds and moss, the boiler was condemned and the kitchen was a write-off. There was a damp issue, the electrics needed rewiring, a dilapidated conservatory had to be removed, there was a hole in the living-room ceiling and the property needed decorating and plastering.
But fast-forward four months and it is a completely different story – thanks to the help of the community and Aidan’s loved ones who have spent many hours working to transform it.
Most importantly, the home caters for Aidan, who has Cloves Syndrome, with swelling to his face and body.
His parents gave up their Shilbottle property in search of an alternative which was more suitable and could be adapted to meet the needs of Aidan as he grows up.
This is exactly what they have got. One of the many positives has been an installation of a lift, which was fitted by Cheshire-based Terry Lifts, and goes from the dining room to the youngster’s Gruffalo-themed bedroom.
The kitchen and dining room have also been made converted into one room, to create more space inside.
The new home is already making a huge difference to Aidan’s quality of life.
Karl said: “He has full run of the house now. The extra space means that he is now much more part of the family and it means that when he is in the dining room and we are in the kitchen, for example, we can still be together.
“His personality seems to be coming out a lot more again and he is a lot happier. The big thing is the installationof the lift, which has made a huge difference.”
The tot has also recently reached a major milestone – eating solid foods. Vikki said: “He really likes the biscuits from Costa Coffee. He has started to eat them and that is a big thing for him.”
Aidan is currently waiting to see a specialist about a drug which could reduce or even stop his swelling.
His story has certainly captured the hearts of Gazette readers. On top of the renovation work, people donated money to the family – who lived with Vikki’s parents while the home was being refurbished – during the Aid For Aidan appeal.
First Newton on the Moor Brownies, for example, raised more than £200 for Aidan at a coffee morning.
Gazette editor Paul Larkin said: “The transformation at the house has been incredible. I would like to thank everybody who has helped, or offered to help, in any way.”
Gordon Webster, of MKM, added: “The support has been overwhelming and a range of people have helped, from mothers to builders.”
The property is not completely finished though. Work to be done includes installing an outside ramp and completing the back garden, which has already been cleared.
Some of the people who helped
Allan Building Sevices, Warkworth; Alnwick retained firefighters Alan Gilbertson, John Winter, Tom Booth and Shaun Arundel; Richard Armstrong and Graham Coe, Mossman and Co Development of Alnwick; Ross Athey, Alnwick; Steve Barron; Gavin Bell; Bobbys Bathrooms & Tiles, Gateshead; Tony Brakewell; Brian & Sons Removal & Storage Alnwick; Vikki Boe, Candy Castle Alnwick; Builders Kevin Stewart and Ben Brown; Ian Campbell.
Cemex, Alnwick; Contractor James McLean, Alnwick; Coun David E Clark, Morpeth Town Council; David Lowes Plant Hire; Davidsons & Son, Alnwick; DJ Purvis Custom Plant Hire, Alnwick; Bernie, Sarah and Rachael Dick, from Gateshead; Diane and George Dourish, Alnwick; Jewson Ltd; Jonathan Kay, Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints; Kerwin Farmer, Wooler; Kitson Windows, Alnwick.
Lee Forster, Wallsend; Willie Gibson, Amble; Ivan Laidler; Lee Hope Painting and Decorating, Alnwick; David Little; Lloyds Plant Hire; Peter Griffiths and Tony Marshall, M Marshall and Sons, Alnwick; Jimmy Little, Christon Bank; M Courty Builder, South Charlton; Chris McCann, Wooler.
James Milligan, Morpeth Kitchen Company; Isla, Meg, Rory, Sam and Kate Morton, from Bamburgh; Derek Moses, Wooler; Sharon Mulcahy; Muras Nicholson, Amble; Richard Blackman Tree Services; Robert Porteous Roofing, Alnwick; Steven Patterson, Amble; Tom Pattinson, Lesbury; Sanders Plant and Waste Management Ltd, Pegswood; Plasterers Trevor Harding, Martin Jobson, David Laverick, Mark Tate, and Jamie Young.
Plastic Plus; Nathan Purvis, K&N Purvis Builders, Amble; Alan Sinton; Stephen R Ennis, Joiner and Builder; Southend Plumbers; Storey and Edmunson, Rothbury; James Swordy, Bamburgh; Symphony Kitchens; Karl Taylor, Amble; Total Flooring, Alnwick; Tree surgeons Callum Aliston and Dave Laverick; Westerhope Tile Company; S Willcox, Shilbottle; Kevin Wright, MKM Building Supplies.