A County Durham girl – who, despite severe health problems, has done a great deal to help others – was a special guest at a big Christmas lights switch-on on Monday night.

Lyla O’Donovan helped the chairman of Durham County Council, Cllr Katie Corrigan, turn on the Christmas tree lights at County Hall in Durham City.

Lyla, aged seven, from Ushaw Moor, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016. Since then, she has had nine operations and experienced multiple complications. Lyla is booked in for yet another operation after Christmas.

Despite these severe challenges, Lyla has stayed positive and is committed to helping other sick children. Along with her older sister Lilley, Lyla has founded Lyla and Lilley’s Stars, an organisation that sends certificates to brave children all across the world.

The O’Donovan family has also been working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to raise the public’s awareness of conditions like Lyla’s.

Lyla recently received a Wellchild Award from Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, in recognition of her courage and care for others.

Chairman Corrigan said, “Lyla is an inspiration to us all. Despite everything she’s been through, she has kept on smiling and has gone out of her way to help other poorly children.”

“We are delighted Lyla has helped us to switch on our festive lights and we would like to wish her and her family a very merry Christmas.”

Christmas lights 2
Lyla O’Donovan and her family with the chairman of Durham County Council Cllr Katie Corrigan and her consort Cllr Bill Moir

Lyla was joined at the switch-on by her dad Paul and mum Kirsty and her siblings Reece, Olivia, Lilley, Harry and Henry.

Since Lyla’s diagnosis, Paul and Kirsty have aimed to make her life as happy as possible. They organised a family holiday to Disneyland, Florida, and made Lyla’s dreams of being a bridesmaid come true earlier this year when they renewed their vows.

Paul and Kirsty also asked people from across the planet to send Lyla cards to celebrate her seventh birthday last week.

Paul said, “Lyla’s positivity has been a source of strength to us all and we want to create as many happy memories as we can.”

“Lyla was so excited when we told her she was going to switch the Christmas tree lights on. It’s made her feel very special and it means so much to us all.”

(This article’s main image shows Lyla with her dad Paul and the chairman of Durham County Council, Cllr Katie Corrigan, left, and her consort Cllr Bill Moir, right.)


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David writes about local news, thought provoking stories, and yearns to capture the community spirit with a unique writing style.


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