Remarkable young cyclist helps PM switch on Number 10 Christmas tree lights (+ video)

Wiltshire girl who doctors feared would never walk or talk gets recognition for cycling achievements

by Simon_MacMichael   December 10, 2011  

Downing Street Christmas Tree lights switch on YouTube still.png

An 11-year-old girl from Chippenham, Wiltshire, Lauren Booth, no stranger to the pages of road.cc, has overcome disability resulting from infant meningitis to become an award-winning cyclist, paid a visit to Number 10 Downing Street earlier this month to help Prime Minister David Cameron turn on the lights on the Christmas tree outside Britain’s most famous front door.

Doctors feared that Lauren Booth would be left unable to talk or walk and would have no quality of life after she was stricken with meningitis just six weeks after she was born, reports the Wiltshire Gazzette and Herald.

As a result of that illness, Lauren lost her hearing in one ear and the parts of her brain associated with memory and speech were also damaged. She also suffers from cerebral palsy, which affects her left arm and leg.

She has overcome those setback however to race for Chippenham Wheelers, and also rides at the Newport Velodrome, where she has been training with the Disability Sports Wales squad since February this year - Dave and Tony ran in to her and her mum at Newport Velodrome at last month's Geraint Thomas track day, where she impressed not only with her riding but also some pretty nifty track-standing skills.

Last month, the remarkable youngster also won the 500m sprint at the Welsh Youth Paracycling Track Championships, and also took second place in the Class C3 3,000m individual pursuit.

In September, she won the Sports Personality of the Year - Athlete with a Disability category at the Wiltshire and Swindon Sports Awards after being nominated by the Meningitis Trust. She had raised £3,000 for the charity in July.

Speaking after their visit to Downing Street, Lauren’s mother, Lisajayne, said: “After Lauren cycled from Chippenham to Stroud to raise money for the Meningitis Trust, I decided to write to Blue Peter to let them know.

“I’d heard nothing of it, but then they got back to me to let me know they were going to give her a gold Blue Peter badge, which are extremely rare.

“They told me there was a chance she could go to 10 Downing Street if she wanted to, so I said, ‘You bet she’d like to’.”

Along with two other children selected by Blue Peter, before switching the Christmas tree lights on, Lauren spent two and a half hours with Mr Cameron, who in 2009 lost his six-year-old son Ivan, who himself suffered from cerebral palsy.

“He was just fantastic to her, so lovely and kind,” said Mrs Booth. “He took real time to have a chat to everyone and make them feel comfortable.”

Referring to the Gold Blue Peter badge her daughter was presented with, Mrs Booth said, “David Beckham has one, and I suddenly wondered if Chris Hoy had one too. It turns out that he does, so Lauren has something that her hero has too now.”

She added the visit to No. Ten Downing Street had been “amazing”. It was featured last week on Blue Peter.

“We were given a tour of it all,” she continued. “We were shown into the Cabinet offfice, where they all have designated chairs.

“Lauren was sat in the Prime Minister’s chair when he came in, and he said to her, ‘Lauren, you’re sitting in my chair’.

“She was going to get up, but he said, ‘Don’t worry, you stay there’, and he pulled up the chair next to her and had a chat with her.”

The video below shows a time-lapse of the tree being put in place and dressed, followed by the lights being switched on, to the evident delight of Lauren and the other children.