Gazza helps girl ‘get her voice back’

Image copyright Family Handout/PA
Image caption Miya uses the machine, which tracks her eye movements, to communicate with her family

A teenager will get her voice back after celebrities helped raise £6,000 to replace stolen equipment.

Miya Thirlby, 16, from Plymouth, has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and is deaf. She uses an adapted computer which helps her speak.

Her dad Paul Johnson made a Twitter appeal for its return after the machine was stolen from his car.

A host of celebrities including Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer and Dawn French shared the original post.

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This led to a Just Giving appeal page being set up by Jamie Twite, which beat its target of £6,000 in less than 24 hours.

Former England footballer Gascoigne donated £1,000 to the appeal.

Other celebrities including Mark Ronson, Lorraine Kelly and comedian Adam Hills – presenter of the TV show The Last Leg, who himself has a disability – have shared the post.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Paul Gascoigne donated £1,000 towards a new machine

Mr Johnson said the thieves might have thought they were stealing a regular computer as it was stored in a laptop bag.

He said: “I’m not 100% sure the thief knew what it was but with the press and everything around it he must know now and where it is.

“For him to still not do anything about it is just heartless.”

Image copyright Paul Johnson
Image caption Paul Johnson still hopes someone will recover the £5,700 machine as it is programmed with family photos

The original tweet has been retweeted more than 50,000 times since it was posted on Thursday and attracted more than 1,000 comments.

It included the hashtag #getmiyasvoiceback, with thousands more people sharing their thoughts on the theft and fundraising.

Image copyright Paul Johnson
Image caption Miya is apparently ‘unaware’ of all the attention but her family are very grateful

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Former Paralympian and campaigner Tanni Grey-Thompson replied to the original post asking if she could raise the story in the House of Lords during a debate on the impact of social media.

Jo Griffiths replied to the original post from Mr Johnson on Twitter offering to give equipment for Miya to use.

Many comments on social media talked about the “human kindness” shown through donations to replace the equipment.

Kas said: “Whilst it’s sickening that someone would do this, for every bad apple there’s hundreds of good ones. £6,000 raised already for a replacement! Amazing. Faith in humans is restored.”

Mr Johnson said: “It has been amazing, overwhelming. Gazza is a hero of mine.”

The machine has pictures of her father, mother Kerrie Thirlby and her twin Macie, and it says their names if Miya looks at the images.

Mr Johnson had hoped it would not be necessary to start a fundraising appeal as he thought it was possible the equipment might be returned.

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