Hometown digs deep for Grace

SEAMUS BOYER
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2012
Grace Yeats on Red Nose Day.
MYSTERY ILLNESS: Grace Yeats on Red Nose Day. Nearly $50,000 was raised for her and her family at an auction and dance on Saturday.

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Grace Yeats could be in hospital for at least another two years - but at least her mother will be able to remain by her side, thanks to the generosity of her hometown.

A charity auction and dance in Carterton on Saturday night raised about $50,000 to support Grace and mum Tracey as the once-bubbly 10-year-old lies in Starship children's hospital with a mysterious brain illness.

The money raised will help her family stay with her, and prepare for the day when she finally comes home.

She has been unable to walk or talk since May, but it is likely she is aware of what is going on around her. The most likely diagnosis is acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (Adem), a rare brain disease that probably struck after she caught a throat infection.

Her father, Stephen, has said that, unless there is a miracle, she will probably be severely disabled for life.

On Saturday about 350 supporters gathered at the Carterton Events Centre for the fundraiser.

Jonathan Tanner, spokesman for the Grace Yeats Trust, said the auction raised about $30,000, with ticket and bar sales likely to take the total close to $50,000.

"It's incredibly impressive," he said. "When you consider that, apart from all the donated items, we didn't have to pay for that much . . . The band played for free, the lighting and sound guys did it for free, so many people have chipped in."

Auctioned items included a flag signed by several of New Zealand's Olympic medallists, morning tea with Prime Minister John Key, signed All Blacks gear and luxury accommodation.

"It's looking like a 12- to 24-month recovery, but what recovery there is no-one really knows," Mr Tanner said of Grace's condition.

"It's probably 12 months until we're even thinking about moving her.

"But luckily she's young and strong, those are two things that she's got going for her, and given the circumstances that's quite a lot really."

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- The Dominion Post

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