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Newspaper rallies community to help sick girl after festive display is trashed

A Christmas display for a sick child wrecked by vandals was rebuilt with the help of her local paper.

Jamie-Leigh Harrington, from Gravesend, suffers from a rare bone and lung disease called lymphangiomatosis which means she may not live to see another Christmas.

But uncaring vandals destroyed the display of festive decorations outside her home just four days before her 11th birthday.

When the Gravesend Messenger reported the tragic tale, the community answered the call to arms and helped rebuild the display.

Editor Denise Eaton said: “We turned this phenomenal event around in just two days, arranging Christmas lights, inflatables, band, choir, mayor, police area commander, Father Christmas, toys, and even real snow, to realise a dying girl’s Christmas wish.”

Staff at the paper spent a frantic two days telephoning local organisations and businesses while calls offering donations and cash deluged the office – some from as far away as Germany.

Around 200 volunteers spent four hours at Jamie’s home putting up lights, inflatables, a tree and even real snow.

And it was smiles all round when the youngster, who weighs just three stone, arrived home with her parents to be greeted by a proper winter wonderland.

The story even attracted interest from the national media when The Sun newspaper dispatched a reporter to Gravesend who was roped into assembling a reindeer.

Mayor of Gravesham Coun Pat Oakeshott, who attended the surprise, said the community should be full of pride.

“What damage was done by these fools is not forgotten, but its impact is incomparable to the wonderful actions of the community who have put things right,” she said.