Haverhill: Tennis star Henman serves up charity ace

HENMAN Hill might have been renamed Murray Mound but ‘Tiger Tim’ will always be number one in the eyes of three-year-old Lily Bamber.

The youngster from Haverhill suffers from an incurable illness known as Mitochondrial Disease (MD) which leaves her unable to stand or walk unaided, prone to stroke-like episodes and constantly tired.

Lily’s grandmother Liz Bamber, who is an ex-tennis coach, has raised more than �11,000 for a charity that funds research into the disease, called The Lily Foundation. It was named in memory of another sufferer Lily Merritt, who died from the disease aged eight months.

To further boost the coffers of the foundation, Mrs Bamber organised a charity tennis tournament and she asked former British number one Tim Henman – who she once coached – to take part. Mr Henman joined Mrs Bamber in an informal doubles match against two of her former pupils at Abingdon tennis centre near Oxford, close to the specialist unit Lily attends at John Radcliffe Hospital.

Mrs Bamber said: “I was very surprised when Tim said he remembered me and I was delighted when he said he would support the tournament. Having three healthy daughters of his own, I think Lily’s situation struck a chord with him.

“Having Tim there on the day certainly helped raise the profile of the disease and it was delightful to able to play with him with Lily watching from the sidelines. Tim has also donated a tennis racket for us to auction and hopefully raise even more money.”

Lily, who will be four years old next month, is due to start school this September. But according to her mum Michelle, 30, the unpredictable nature of the illness makes the future uncertain.

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She said: “It’s a progressive disease and occurs differently in different people and there are so many types – the doctors don’t really know how it will affect Lily in the long run. If she gets a cold or viral infection, it can affect her more and if she doesn’t eat enough, her body can’t produce energy.”

Michelle believes research to enable more accurate diagnosis is essential. She added: “We initially thought we had a perfectly healthy child because it took such a long time to diagnose. The Lily Foundation uses the money raised to fund vital research that will help us learn more about the disease.”

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