Former England football star Paul Gascoigne has donated £1,000 to a disabled teenager who was left unable to talk to her family after her speech device was stolen.
Gascoigne – known by millions as Gazza – joined fellow footballer icon Alan Shearer and tennis hero Andy Murray to help 16-year-old Miya Thirlby, who has epilepsy and needs sophisticated software to communicate.
The girl’s father, Paul Johnson, had appealed to Twitter for help after the device was stolen from the family car.
Writing on Twitter, Gascoigne told Mr Johnson on Thursday: “I’ll donate a £1,000 now towards a new one for ya, get in touch wiv us Love GAZZA xxxx.”
He later posted a picture of his donation towards the JustGiving campaign’s £6,000 target.
Mr Johnson said he had been overwhelmed by the scale of the viral response, which on Thursday night had already passed £5,000.
After his tweet went viral, the 40-year-old business analyst said: “The reaction has been nuts.
“It’s quite overwhelming.
Miya Thirlby (right) using her talking aid which has been stolen (Family handout/PA)
“It restores your faith in human nature.”
His daughter Miya uses a tablet with sophisticated software which generates speech from what she is looking at.
The appeal for help in finding the talking aid Miya Thirlby uses has been shared on social media by Shearer and Murray and has been retweeted more than 18,000 times.
Shearer tweeted: “Come on man. Do the decent thing and please somehow get the machine back to this little girl.”
Mr Johnson said he was desperate for the computer to be returned as the software is specially adapted to work with her eyes.
The machine has pictures of her father, mother Kerrie Thirlby, and her twin Macie.
The father urged anyone who might know where the computer is to hand it in to a responsible person.
He said: “Plymouth is not that big and word has spread so I am pretty sure the people who did this will know by now.
“It’s looking doubtful we will get it back but you never know.”