LESS than two years ago she was barely able to walk, let alone run.
Now, after months of physiotherapy and an outpouring of generous public support, disabled Rustington child Sophie Nugent has astounded everyone by running almost a kilometre – by herself.
The remarkable six-year-old was born with cerebral palsy, which frequently left her in constant agony, crippled by painful spasms.
However, following a pioneering, £40,000 operation in America, Sophie is now sprinting forwards in leaps and bounds.
She took part in a specially-organised run on Friday (March 23) at The Angmering School, dedicated to supporting her as she battles through her demanding regime of physiotherapy, following on from the operation.
Students, families and teachers at the school rallied together, helping to raise more than £2,000 for the courageous child.
The event saw about 200 youngsters, aged between 11 and 14, take part in a gruelling five-mile run from the school gates, to Highdown and back, with Sophie leading the pack, alongside her older sister Daisi, 14, who is a student at the school.
The determined youngster, who one day hopes to manage the full distance, set herself a goal of reaching Worthing Rugby Club’s grounds, in Roundstone Lane – an ambition which left Sophie’s mum, Debbi, “overwhelmed”.
She said: “Sophie left me stunned. I was really emotional when I watched her set off because I kept thinking how far she has come.
“It’s been like a fairytale come true. You just don’t think this will ever happen.
“But the level of support, of generosity and kindness we’ve received – that Sophie has received – has left us speechless.
“So many of the children running were saying, ‘Sophie, we’re doing this for you’ and were encouraging her on.”
After completing her challenge, Sophie was then driven back to the school, where she waited to cheer on the returning students – most wearing fancy dress. Ed Whiffin, head of PE at the school, said he was “blown away” by Sophie’s run and by the level of support the students showed.
Mr Whiffin said: “She is a remarkable child and we’ve been supporting her for a couple of years now.
“It’s just nice to have someone in our community that we can back and help.
“The children get a real appreciation for what their support means to needy people like Sophie. They get to witness, first-hand, the progression she makes as a result of their hard work.
“She is a real inspiration.”
The money raised will now go towards funding Sophie’s expensive, weekly physiotherapy sessions, in Oxford.
Mum Debbie added that there was still a long way to go, until Sophie was fully mobile.
She said: “It’s five years of treatment she needs to complete and she is less than half-way through.
“She still struggles with the little things, like kicking a ball and her balance. She is working so hard to improve her fine motor skills, and rebuild the muscles in her legs.
“But she is a very determined girl. If you say she can’t do something, she will always go out of her way to try and prove you wrong.”
The family still need more public support to help pay for Sophie’s treatments and give her the freedom she so desperately seeks.
To help support her, visit www.helpsophiewalk.co.uk