Teenager's Christmas surprise for disabled brother goes global

Jack Andree and Brendan Croft

Brotherly love - Jack and Brendan and their baby sister Eva - Credit: Keely Croft

Police, fire and ambulance crews and military forces from across the globe have rallied together to wish a young Tower Hamlets boy with cerebral palsy a merry Christmas.

Festive video messages from services in the UK and as far away as Australia and the United States, poured in after Jack Andree was admitted to hospital in November weighing just three stone when his condition caused his body to stop absorbing vital nutrients from food.

The 12-year-old also underwent surgery in August after his disability, which can also weaken his arms and legs and cause muscle spasms, caused him to dislocate his hip in his sleep.

Queensland nurses

Nurses in Queensland took part in the video to wish Jack a happy Christmas - Credit: Capital City College Group

Jack’s older brother Brendan, 18, a student at City and Islington College, came up with the idea for the video, which also includes messages from family and friends, to surprise him this Christmas.

He said: “Jack spends most of his time in and out of hospital. He’s had a really tough year and I felt he really deserved something extra special. He loves TV programmes like Fireman Sam, Paw Patrol, London’s Burning and Ambulance, and anything about public services, because they’re the superheroes he sees nearly every day.”

Dorset and Wiltshire fire service

A thumbs-up to Jack from Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service in a still from the video - Credit: Capital City College Group


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Among the well-wishers in the video were officers from Wiltshire Police, firefighters from Philadelphia Fire Department, soldiers from 3rd Battalion Parachute Regiment at Colchester Garrison, the 11th Combat Service Support Battalion of the Australian Army, and nurses from Tara Hospital in Queensland.

Brendan said: “I had no idea it would reach so far and get around the world especially as quick as it did. Words cannot describe how grateful I am to everyone. I’m so thankful and honoured to them for doing this and making this Christmas dream come true for Jack.”

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Brendan is studying a public services diploma and asked his college tutor Nigel Lewis, a former Met police officer, for help with the video.

Nigel contacted some of his former colleagues and within 24 hours he was inundated with offers of videos from the UK, New York, Texas, Australia, New Zealand and Gibraltar.

Philadelphia Fire Department

A still from the video shows Philadelphia Fire Department - Credit: Capital City College Group

He said: “Brendan is one of the most wonderful young men I have had the pleasure to meet and teach, his heart is so warm. He smiles every day and cares so much for his brother. He sent me a video of Jack in hospital. When I saw his huge smile despite being so unwell, I knew I had to do something to make his Christmas special.”

After Jack’s hip operation, Brendan spent many hours at his hospital bedside when their mum Keely was pregnant with their newly born sister Eva and later during his brother’s readmission for serious weight loss.

Brendan, Eva and Jack

Brendan, 18, and Jack, 12, with baby sister Eva - Credit: Keely Croft

Keely, 38, said: “Bringing up a child with cerebral palsy is not easy from the minute they’re diagnosed. What Brendan has done for Jack is so special. When I think I couldn’t be any prouder of him, he does something even more thoughtful and caring.”

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that causes problems with movement, co-ordination and development and affects one in 400 people in the UK. It is caused by problem that affects the brain before, during or soon after birth and there is no cure.

Click here for more information on public services courses at City and Islington College.

Watch a video about Brendan's amazing gift.

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