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Schoolboy gets new life-changing bionic arm funded by plumber

He welled up as he was gifted a Black Panther-style ‘Hero Arm’

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Dionne and Robin Sparks & ITV

A young schoolboy given a new life-changing £13,000 bionic arm shook hands with the plumber who funded it.

Seven-year-old Alex Sparks was born without a right forearm and had been on an NHS prosthetic waiting list for more than three years.

After spending birthdays ‘wishing’ for it to grow back, his parents, Dionne and Robin, decided to fundraise for a motorised prosthetic arm for him.

When James Anderson, a 52-year-old plumber from Burnley, founder of Depher Plumbing Services, heard about the fundraiser, he fulfilled the target by making a single payment.

Dionne and Robin Sparks

James met Alex in his hometown of Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire where the youngster got to try out his new arm by doing a ‘high five’, a ‘tickle’ and a ‘squeeze’.

Watching in amazement as the motors in Alex’s arm whirred, James said: “Wow! That’s absolutely amazing mate! Honest to God.”

Alex had never enjoyed wearing prosthetics until he tried the Black Panther themed ‘Hero Arm’ and his family say his face ‘lit-up’ as he was able to make it move.

The device, made by Open Bionics in Bristol — a company that 3D prints prosthetic limbs — uses sensors to register muscle movements in the upper arm and turn those into hand motions.


Alex told ITV News about ‘loads of things’ he now wants to do with his new bionic arm, saying: “I want to brush my teeth, reel-in a rod when I fish and play with two hands.

“Play catch and learn how to draw with this [bionic] hand because I can draw with [the other] hand.”

James’ Burnley-based social enterprise firm Depher, has helped many elderly and vulnerable people in need.

Originally setup to give free plumbing work to elderly and disabled individuals, it now provides wider support and food parcels.


The plumber explained he chose to pay for Alex’s arm as he could see the schoolboy’s ‘strength in his eyes’.

He said: “When I saw that he needed this so he could go fishing with his Dad, go bike-riding and play football – just do the normal things that a child would do with his mates outside – I immediately fell in love with it.

“You could see the strength inside of him, You could see the strength in his eyes. It was a no brainer. I transferred the money to the bank and said, ‘there you go, it’s done’.”

In a mobile phone video of the touching moment, James shows Alex the receipt and asks: “Do you know what that means?” Alex replied: “No.” 

James then says: “That means I’ve just paid for your new arm. So, hopefully, sooner rather than later you’re going to go fishing with your Dad.”

To which Alex cheers and fills up with tears of joy.

Dionne and Robin are now hoping Alex’s new arm will bring him a brighter, happier future and allow him to do all the things he would like to do in life.

His dad Robin said:  “We’re looking forward to him becoming an independent and outgoing seven year old.


“One that he doesn’t always have to keep looking back towards where his mum and dad are for help. Where he could just go forward and enjoy his life.”

The family are extremely grateful and can’t thank James enough as Dionne described James as an ‘incredible man’, adding: “He’s just helping so many people, whether it’s his food banks or his plumbing.

“He’s just one man helping loads of people. The world definitely needs more James Andersons. It really does.”

Alex’s new bionic limb is a little longer than his arm allowing him room to grow until he reaches his mid-teens, where he will need a replacement arm to match his size.


Tributes pour in after body of ‘lovely’ missing man found by police

People have been posting their tributes to Charlie online

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AFC Stockport / Facebook & @bosdenfarmfc / Twitter

Heartfelt tributes have been flooding in across social media platforms after the body of a 26-year-old man from Stockport was discovered by police.

Charlie Johnson, 26, was last seen at around 11.30pm in the Cheadle Hulme area of Stockport on Thursday, September 21st.

Greater Manchester Police launched an appeal to the public to help find him but sadly, officers confirmed they had discovered a body on Tuesday, September 26th during the search.

His next of kin have been informed and a file was passed on to the coroner.

AFC Stockport / Facebook

Detective Inspector Michael Jimenez, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Our thoughts remain with Charlie’s family at this difficult time, and we have specialist officers in place to support them. Thank you to those who shared our appeals.”

Following the tragic news, tributes have been paid online to honour the life of the ‘superb sportsman’ described by those who knew him as ‘a lovely lad’.

AFC Stockport, who Charlie briefly played for last season, posted on Facebook: It is with sad news that today we say RIP to Charlie Johnson who briefly played for the club last season.

“Charlie netted 9 goals in 7 appearances for our Rangers team. RIP Charlie – Our thoughts are with your family and friends.”

And Bosden Farm FC, based in Stockport, wrote on their Twitter page: “It is with great sadness we report the news on the passing of Charlie he was a huge part of Bosden Farm and was loved by everyone who met him.

“We will miss him so much. We send our condolences to his friends and family and ask that you respect their privacy at this moment in time.”

Upon hearing the sad news, Mary Brooks-Davies wrote: “Heartbroken. Charlie was such a lovely lad, remember him well when he was at primary school with my daughter. Love and gentlest hugs to his family xxxx.”

Greater Manchester Police

In a tribute to Charlie, Badhrul Islam wrote: “Taught him as a lad. Can genuinely say none of my colleagues had a bad word to say.

“PE teachers remember him being a superb sportsman with a great attitude. Really well liked all round. Worked with his dad who was a thoroughly nice man. This is desperately sad news.”

Rachel Taylor wrote: “Thinking of all your family and friends at this sad time, RIP Charlie xx.”

And Callum Lawson wrote: “R.I.P Charlie.”

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Three Wilko stores in Greater Manchester reopening as Poundland this weekend

Three out of the 10 stores set to reopen this weekend are in Greater Manchester

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Google Maps & Martin Pettitt / Flickr

This weekend, three former Wilko stores will reopen as Poundlands in Greater Manchester.

Following the collapse of Wilko last month, 10 stores are set to reopen as Poundland outlets this weekend, after being bought out by the budget retailer.

Poundland owner Pepco agreed to purchase 71 Wilko stores from administrators PwC earlier this month.

The company plans to rebrand and open them under its own by the end of the year.

Martin Pettitt / Flickr

Another rival retailer, B&M, bought 51 Wilko stores in a deal of around £5 million, and plans to also reopen them under its own brand.

In Greater Manchester, the three Wilko locations which will be reopening as new Poundland sites are at The Mall on Church Street in Eccles, The Peel Centre, on Great Portwood Street in Stockport, and on Lord Street, in Leigh.

The seven other sites set to reopen this weekend are across Stafford, Nelson, Barking, Southport, Maidenhead, Jarrow and Scunthorpe.

Google Maps

Family-owned company Wilko ran 400 shops and employed around 12,500 staff when it brought in administrators PwC last month. The company, which was founded in 1930, folded under the pressure of cuts in consumer spending, due to the cost-of-living crisis, and debts owed to suppliers.

All Wilko stores will close resulting in thousands of staff redundancies, as its remaining shops shut on October 8th.

Poundland has encouraged Wilko staff to apply for new job roles with its chain and have assured them they will be made a priority.

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Lee Rigby’s son raises five times his target for children’s bereavement charity

You can help supercharge Jack’s efforts

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The determined 13-year-old son of Lee Rigby has managed to raise over £50,000 for charity in memory of his father.

Jack Rigby started off with the hope of raising £10,000, as last May was the 10th anniversary of his dad’s tragic murder, but he managed to smash that target and raise more than £50,000.

The young lad completed a marathon walk for Scotty’s Little Soldiers – a charity that supports children bereaved of a parent who served in the British Armed Forces.


The charity has been by Jack’s side supporting him as he has been forced to grow up without his dad.

All funds raised by Jack will go to the vital charity but now, the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, in partnership with TSB, want to help him double his total money raised to £100,000 – and they are asking for the help of the public to do so.

A secret GoFundMe page has been set up to surprise the teenager with a boost to the £54k he has already raised.

Jack’s mum Rebecca told the Mirror: “Jack was so excited to see the amount grow and seeing how much each donation made him smile meant the world to me.


“He and I read all the messages of support and were thankful for them all. We honestly couldn’t believe how kind and generous people were being.

“We never dreamt that the fundraiser would do as well as it did and we are thankful to each and every person who donated and sent messages.”

Lee Rigby, originally from Crumpsall, North Manchester, was killed by Islamic extremist terrorists outside Woolwich barracks on May 22nd, 2013. He was 25 years old.

His son, Jack, was just two when his dad’s life was taken.


The schoolboy from Halifax, West Yorkshire, said: “I feel proud doing the May Marathon in honour of my dad. It also helps distract me from everything. Going on a long walk is a nice break and reminds me it’s not all bad.”

Rebecca added: “Jack wanted to do something positive in memory of his dad. He wants to show how even though he’s grown up without Lee, he’s not forgotten his dad.” 

The charity has meant so much to Jack over the years that he has even named his dog ‘Scotty’ after it.

If you’d like to help Jack in raising money for Scotty’s Little Soldiers charity, you can make a donation to the GoFundMe page by clicking HERE.

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