A HUGE appeal launched to help a little Hampshire boy take his first steps has almost reached its target.

The parents of three-year-old Oliver Osborne started a £100,000 fundraising drive last August after doctors discovered he needed life-changing surgery.

The appeal received a huge boost when Hampshire comedian Jim Davidson hosted a charity ball at St Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, on Saturday.

The event is thought to have netted about £14,000 – taking the amount raised so far to £96,000.

Oliver’s parents, Sallyanne, 39, and Terry, 37, of Titchfield, are friends of Jim and his wife Michelle, who live at Stockbridge.

Sallyanne said: “Jim has known Oliver since he was born. He knows what the family has been through and wanted to help.

“The ball was an absolutely fantastic evening – everyone really enjoyed it.”

As reported in the Daily Echo, Oliver was born 11 weeks premature, weighing in at just 2lb 12oz, and spent his first seven weeks in hospital.

Just three months after his first birthday he was diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy.

Doctors said he would never walk without undergoing an operation known as selective dorsal rhizotomy, which aims to reduce the patient’s spasticity.

The procedure is not available on the NHS, which meant Oliver’s family had to raise £100,000 to cover the cost of the surgery and daily physiotherapy, plus hydro-therapy and personal training. But they have now been given a date for the operation following the success of the fundraising campaign.

The family will fly to St Louis in Missouri, USA, where the youngster will undergo surgery on September 30.

Sallyanne said: “It’s a big weight off our minds.

“We have been completely overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness and support. It’s quite difficult to take it all in.”

Earlier this year Sallyanne highlighted the importance of the operation, saying it would make a difference to the whole family.

She added: “He’s so cheeky and smiley and happy. Everyone who meets him just falls in love with him.”