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Schoolboy fundraiser Dhillon Manku on a mission to give back

Schoolboy fundraiser Dhillon Manku on a mission to give back

Dhillon Manku weighed just 3lb 9oz when he was born prematurely at Kingston Hospital in London in 2013 and discovered the lifesaving care he received in the NeoNatal Unit (NNU) of the hospital when he was a little older.

Can we buy an incubator for other babies that come out of their mom's tummies too early, was the four-year-old's question when his mother Sharn and father Jas explained why his little sister did not need to be a glass box like him. And, he has done just that as he completed an ambitious fundraising journey, which concluded recently by raising over 19,000 for a new incubator for the hospital that saved his life.

Lockdown drive

When the coronavirus lockdown struck back in March, Dhillon still had 5,000 of his target figure still to go.

My idea was to make slime and sell it, says the six-year-old schoolboy, who was determined not to give up.

Attracted by the colourful designs of Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing online retailers, Dhillon aimed an Instagram video directly at their founders the Kamani family.

To his amazement, Aisha Kamani, one of the owners, messaged Dhillon praising him on his work and also to say how much they loved his presentation. It resulted in the family donating the remainder of the money he needed for the incubator.

Looking back at his 18-month-long mission that began in 2018, Dhillon says he feels great to have achieved his target.

Spirit of giving

It was such a lovely thing to be thinking about at such a young age, says proud mum Sharn, who explained that the money raised goes to the Born Too Soon charity established in 1985 to offer support to parents of pre-term babies and newborn infants requiring specialist care on the NeoNatal Unit at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust.

Without the amazing support of the charity, and the staff at Kingston Hospital I don t think I could have ever got through the most challenging time of my life. Without them, my little boy Dhillon may not have been here today, adds the London-based HR manager.

Dhillon spent his first birthday in intensive care and has suffered five life-threatening bouts of pneumonia since he came into the world.

Once he had made up his mind about wanting to give back to the hospital that played such a crucial role in his life, he came up with the idea of a sponsored swim that raised a staggering 5,000.

It was his first charity event and that was on his fifth birthday in 2018, recalls Sharn.

I love trampolines, smiles Dhillon, who went on to persuade his school friends to join him on a mass sponsored bounce at a trampoline park in Croydon, south London, in a bid to get closer to his target.

He also took his spirit of giving to India in November last year, when he donated toys for the play area of a children's hospital.

Inspirational journey

In reference to the fundraising journey, Dhillon's mother reflects upon all the support they received from family, friends and public figures such as singers Jay Sean and Peter Andre and Strictly Come Dancing star Dr Ranj.

It means families in the Kingston borough who have a premature child can receive the support they need, saving them to go afar to another hospital, especially in the current situation we are in, says Sharn.

Kingston Hospital has already acquired its new incubator thanks to Dhillon's fundraising drive and it has been put to good use, including to help isolate infants at risk of Covid-19.

And, Dhillon's efforts have been commemorated with a plaque on the side of the machine. Asked about the message he wanted engraved, the Liverpool FC fan chose his club's anthem: You'll never walk alone.

by Preeti Bali

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