A MOTHER has launched an ambitious campaign to raise nearly a quarter of a million pounds to send her disabled son to a top specialist school.

Edel Rae, of Oldcastle, Malpas, has been caring for son Joe for 19 years, since he was born with profound physical and learning difficulties.

And now he has secured a place at a specialist school in Sussex that will further his education, she’s doing everything she can to raise the funds to pay for his fees.

Edel says Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) is reluctant to provide funding because the school is based outside the county.

“The education Joe receives from his current school ends this year, and we were told there were no colleges in Cheshire that could provide appropriate further education so we had to look outside the county,” she said.

“We did research but Chailey Heritage residential school stood out because Joe sat there so relaxed and happy. I had a sense this was the right school for him.”

Chailey Heritage provides the same social, leisure and learning activities as a university.

It was after taking Joe to the school that Edel decided to launch a fundraising campaign to raise the £238,000 needed to fund his place, and set about the mammoth task of asking 76,000 people to donate £3 or more to The Joe Rae Trust.

“Asking strangers to donate money to any cause is tricky, because there are so many good causes,” said Edel.

“It’s a scary amount of money to raise, which is why I decided to ask as many people as possible to donate a small bit.

“Further education is a choice, not a right, but I wouldn’t be doing my job properly as Joe’s mother if I didn’t try to find a way to give him that choice,” she added.

The response has been overwhelming since its launch on June 10, with people approaching Edel on the street to give donations and offering to organise separate fundraisers.

With the help of Facebook and Edel’s regular online blog, the current total is already nearing the £5,000 mark after just a few weeks.

“It’s been heartening to see people’s reactions to Joe’s story,” said Edel. “The money is of course great, but it means that people understand why we are going to such great lengths.

“If we raise enough, a school place begins in September, but we’re going to see how the situation stands in a few weeks. The campaign’s only a few weeks old and I’m still hoping the council will get involved.”

CWaC spokesman Ian Callister says no decision has yet been made on funding, adding: “Whilst at this stage we haven’t yet received any costing assessment from Chailey Heritage, we are talking to Mrs Rae with regards to funding possibilities.”