A little girl with a rare disease who requested a hug from a charity’s teddy bear mascot will have her wish come true at Liverpool’s Albert Dock this Thursday (August 17) .
She will get to shake paws with ocean-going ted ‘Sailor Swift’ before the bear embarks on a mammoth voyage with the crew of the Great Britain clipper in the Clipper Round the World race.
Crewman Jon Milne, 50, is sailing with the soft toy to help raise funds for the Lily Foundation, a charity which supports children with mitochondrial disease.
The charity set the bear up with its own Twitter account, which is how Isabelle first came to learn about his adventures. When Isabelle said she’d like to meet the intrepid bear, her mum contacted the Lily Foundation to see what could be done.
“I messaged Sailor Swift on Twitter to see if he had time,” said Jemma Gregory, who is married to Craig, with another daughter Imogen, four, and son Isaac, eight.
“I felt a bit funny messaging a bear, but he got back to me immediately and said he’d love to meet Isabelle. He’s arranged for us to meet the clipper crew and see the yacht. Issy is really looking forward to it.”
Jon Milne said: “My voyage will be tough, but it’s nothing compared to what children who suffer from mitochondrial disease are enduring every day. So I’m taking Sailor Swift with me wherever I go to remind me of their battle. He’s already visited 10 Downing Street for the official announcement of the Great Britain team.”
Jon, a keen sportsman and former rugby coach, gave up his job as an IT executive to volunteer for what he calls ‘the adventure of a lifetime’ in the round-the-world race which sets off from Liverpool on Sunday (August 20).
Over eight legs, he will spend about 11 months at sea in a race against 11 other teams and cover 40,000 nautical miles. Crew members need not necessarily have any sailing experience but every clipper comes with a fully qualified skipper.