Builder raises $100,000 in amazing act of generosity to give him a chance to learn how.

He may only be four, but like many young New Zealand boys Harry Finch can't wait to play sport when he gets older.

His chances of doing so though are uncertain. A cerebral palsy sufferer since he and his identical twin brother Ollie were born prematurely at 29 weeks, Harry has never developed enough muscle strength in his legs to walk.

Yet surgery in the United States last month - together with the generosity of a Cromwell builder Derek Craig - means the odds of him doing so have risen significantly.

The operation, at the St Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, has led to an improvement in Harry's mobility while money raised by Craig through a special building project means the Dunedin-based Finch family will be able to afford the ongoing treatment Harry needs in his quest to one day walk.


Craig has donated $100,000 to the family, the proceeds from the sale of two container homes he spent months building in his spare time and the family intend using it to help pay the costs of post-operative therapy Harry is required to undergo for at least the next seven years.

Craig has been recognised for his efforts by being named an ASB Good as Gold recipient, the bank giving him $10,000 to take his partner and three children on a holiday.

Harry's dad, Hayden Finch, describes Craig's donation as amazing and overwhelming: "It has helped give Harry a huge opportunity in life to walk.

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"Harry talks about playing sports like rugby and golf although I think really he just wants to be able to run around with Ollie," says Finch. "But without the surgery and the money from the container houses I fear he would have been destined never to walk, I'm not sure what we would have done."

Harry was born with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy meaning the muscles in his legs are always contracted and make it impossible for him to learn to walk.

The surgery in St Louis, paid for by a separate community fund-raising campaign, released the muscle tension in his legs, opened up his spine and fused the nerve endings - a procedure that has given him a chance to one day take his first steps.

"He is back to having baby muscles," says Finch. "They are like those of a one-day-old baby. He's really determined to get there and is moving around better with his crawling, but it is going to be a long, slow process."


Harry is now facing ongoing treatment and rehab, including physiotherapy four days a week for the next seven years. It was this cost his Dad - and Mum Bex - worried about how they were going to pay. That is until Craig, an old acquaintance of Hayden's, came into the picture.

The two men lived in the same district as boys and although they hadn't seen much of each other in recent years, when Craig heard about Harry's plight he knew he had to act.

"I saw someone who needed help and I couldn't turn a blind eye," says Craig. "I knew we could make it work even though it was going to require a big commitment of time and effort. But when we handed the cheque over all the hard work sort of disappeared."

Craig, who is a partner in the Cromwell-based Hunter and Craig Building and Design, rallied his community and other tradies to build the container houses.

"Originally we were aiming for $70,000 but we got to $100,000 after we received a Placemakers grant," he says. "We were pretty stoked at the result."

Craig was nominated for the ASB award by Ian Gare of Alexandra. They have known each other for about eight years through their business dealings and Gare says Craig is a "very down-to-earth and humble man who never expects anything in return. He's absolutely selfless and doesn't do any of this for the kudos."

The Finch project is not the only one Craig has worked on: Six years ago, together with a team of volunteers, he undertook "Operation Owen" to construct a purpose-built home for Jodie and Terry Owen whose two daughters (aged eight and four at the time) had cerebellar ataxia, a condition affecting their co-ordination and balance.

"We do quite a bit of this," he says. "Most of it is in my spare time although I'm lucky I've got the business to a point where I can take a few hours here and there. It does come back to us, so I suppose you could say it is an investment."

"Derek is an incredibly driven and generous man, with a passion for offering practical help where he sees a need," says ASB South Island regional manager Martin Gay. "We're delighted to give him an ASB Good as Gold award so he can take some well-deserved time out with his family."

Craig has decided on a holiday in Fiji for his partner Hana and children Billie-Rose (12), Charlie (8) and Daisy (6) where they will spend 10 days in September.

"It's big ups to my kids too," he says. "They give up time with me while I'm on these projects and hopefully I can teach them something so some of it will rub off on them. They do see the results, I guess that's a lesson for them."