When Tam Cowan returned north last year to resume his fundraising efforts to help Inverness youngster Sam Douglas it was special for two reasons.
It was his first time back since the pandemic, and the first time he was able to meet the boy who had inspired his visits.
“It was brilliant. I was quite touched to finally meet him”, said the comedian, columnist and co-host of BBC Radio Scotland’s ‘Off the Ball’ show.
“I’m a big softie at heart and when I met Sam my bottom lip was going. It brought it all home and I felt quite emotional.”
How will the cash help Sam?
Eight-year-old Sam lives with an undiagnosed neurological condition that causes epilepsy and developmental delay.
Tam was first approached five years ago and immediately offered his services for free.
Since then he has helped raise thousands of pounds towards the ongoing costs of Sam’s therapy.
He will be back on August 27 at the Kingsmills Hotel.
“It’s always a smashing day and I really enjoy it.
“It’s a very worthy cause so it was an easy decision for me to do, particularly when you’re a father yourself and you see a wee guy with 101 things going against him in his very young life.
“The shows are a pleasure to do. I know Sam has highs and lows, but it gives you a buzz if you think it can eventually help the wee guy.”
Sam was not well enough to meet Tam in 2018 and the following year the comedian’s heavy cold meant he could not risk being near the youngster.
“I’m keen to continue to do the shows, particularly now I’ve met Sam.
“I wasn’t able to see him the first two years but, joy of joys, last year his family took him in after the show and we met up.”
‘I’m happy to help every year’
He added: “It’s easy for me to yak away for three or four hours.
“The hard work is done by the team who organise the event, sell tickets and arrange sponsors and prizes.
“I’d love to think we wouldn’t have to do too many of these, that one day there will be a breakthrough in medical science to help Sam.
“But I’m happy to go up every year to do a turn for a great wee guy.”
How is Sam doing?
Initially it was hoped that the range of therapies Sam undergoes would help him walk.
But over time his family have realised the focus needs to be on just supporting his development.
Sam doesn’t speak, but loves music and movement. He goes to Drummond School, where one of his favourite activities is listening to the pipes.
In recent months a number of setbacks have seen him admitted to hospital 10 times.
His mother Steph said: “As we approach Sam’s ninth birthday, we live in hope for calm times for him.”
The funds help pay a visiting occupational therapist and physiotherapist from Essex-based Mini Wonders Children’s Physiotherapy.
‘We are so lucky’
In 2019, Sam visited the NAPA centre in the US, a facility dedicated to delivering innovative therapy services to children with a variety of neurological and developmental needs.
NAPA is opening a new clinic in London this year and it is hoped Sam will be able to attend in 2024.
“It is amazing that there is one so much closer to home”, said Steph.
“There is still a waiting list to get in, but we hope next year to be able to take him.”
She and husband Kris say they are amazed and thankful for the support for Sam from fundraisers, including Tam Cowan.
Blocks of therapy for Sam cost £500 each and his family try to do six a year, while there is the expense of equipment as he grows.
“We struggle to put into words just how grateful we are to everyone who supports Sam and continues to. We are so lucky.
“The continued fundraising has been amazing and Tam’s events have ensured that Sam’s pot is ‘topped up’.
“It means we are able to purchase specialised equipment that Sam needs, like a physio vest which costs £5,000.
“We would not have been able to afford that ourselves.
“We are also looking into new chairs and a sleep system at present, all of which come with a very hefty price tag.”
Separate from their own fundraising efforts, the couple set up the charity Dream Believe Achieve.
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