28/08/2014 07:14 BST | Updated 20/05/2015 06:12 BST

Girl Told She Would Never Walk Unaided Wins Place At Top Ballet School


A five-year-old girl who was told she would never walk unaided has been accepted into the English National Ballet School.

Matilda Duncan was born with cerebral palsy, but had an operation paid for by a fundraising campaign launched by her best friend Casey Burke – who also has the condition.

Matilda's Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy procedure - an operation that improves mobility by cutting nerves in the lower spine - was funded by a campaign started by Casey, also five.

Casey has a form of cerebral palsy that cannot be fixed by the operation.

The op was carried out on May 23 at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Although the NHS pays for the operation itself, Great Ormond Street Hospital require parents to fund the expensive rehabilitation.

Casey, with a little help from her mum, launched a campaign to get 25,000 people to each donate £1 to cover the cost of the pre and post-op care for Matilda.

Her 'Walking Matilda' campaign went viral, and raised £40,000 in a two days. The public's generosity meant Matilda's family have been able to pay for her operation, and donate the rest towards helping another child.

Matilda has now been accepted into The English National Ballet School, based in Fulham, south west London. The school has offered Matilda a place in their junior class, starting in October.

Matilda, who is also known as Tilly and has a twin brother called Matthew, said: 'I always wanted to grow up to be a dancer or a footballer, and now I can. I can't wait to start dancing, and I can play with my brother now too. I have Casey to thank for this. She'll be my best friend forever.'

The girls, who became best friends at nursery, were both born prematurely, and both have twins without the condition.

Matilda's mum Rachel Knowles, 41, told reporters: "To be told your child is never going to be able to walk unaided is something no parent should ever have to be told.

"But now that Tilly has had this operation, everything in our lives has improved. She's happier than ever, and so is Matthew too. They're forever playing out in the garden now. Tilly doesn't get as tired, and neither do I.

"She still gets a bit stuck sometimes and struggles, but she's improving all the time and it's nowhere near as bad as it was. We've been told that in about two years, it'll be like she never had any mobility issues.

"And for her to be offered a place at a ballet school is just amazing. If anybody had done that this time last year, I would have thought they were making fun of us. But now Tilly's the one making her own fun, and it's brilliant."