SPRINGWATCH star Chris Packham helped a Southampton girl smash her fundraising target for the autism group she attends – after reading about her challenge in the Echo.

Antonia Bieniek, from Bitterne, has been attending the Southampton Autism and Aspergers Support Group in Woolston for around eight months.

As previously reported, the eight-year-old climbed Snowdon with the aim of raising £500 to buy new play equipment and fund activities for the group.

So far she has raised more than £800, and was helped to that impressive total by one of her heroes, Chris Packham.

The conservationist and television presenter donated £100 and wrote on Antonia’s Just Giving page: “Hello Antonia – I read about your Snowdon climb in the Echo. Good luck, I hope the weather is good for you. I’ve only been up once and it was so cloudy I couldn’t see anything! Best, Chris.”

Chris was himself diagnosed with autism in his 40s.

Antonia, who adores animals and loves being outdoors, would love to follow in his footsteps and pursue a career connected to the nature.

“I’m really proud of doing the climb and raising so much money,” said Antonia. “Having a message from Chris Packham was very exciting. I was jumping around when I saw it.“I wrote him a message to thank him and say what a kind man he is. I would love to meet him and have him come to the group.”

Antonia is hoping that some of the money raised will be put towards a group visit to a local animal sanctuary.

To make a donation to Antonia’s appeal, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/antoniaclimbssnowdon