EMOTIONS were running high when a Basingstoke Weight Watchers’ leader had her head shaved in honour of a terminally ill little girl.

Vanda Williams was cheered on by a large crowd at Queen Mary’s College, in Cliddesden Road, on Saturday when her locks were chopped off to raise money for The Lily Foundation, which funds research into Mitochondrial disease.

Vanda decided to shave her head for the charity after hearing about Weight Watchers’ member Liz Whitman’s daughter Keira Elmer.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Keira was a happy and healthy child until the age of three when she started suffering seizures.

She was eventually diagnosed with Alpers Syndrome in June last year, by which point her health had rapidly deteriorated.

The condition is so rare it affects just one in 100,000 children.

Now aged five, Keira is blind and unable to move or communicate.

She cannot eat and suffers seizures in all four limbs and her face.

Keira’s paediatrician spoke at the head shave on Saturday, to raise awareness of Mitochondrial disease.

Vanda said: “I have seen what Liz has gone through for the last nearly two years since Keira had her first fit.

“Liz was pregnant with Chloe when her nightmare started. She’s just so stoic and together. When Keira’s paediatrician spoke it was very emotive. Liz broke down and most people had tears in their eyes including me.”

Vanda, who is celebrating 10 years of being a Weight Watchers’ leader, raised more than £2,000 for the charity.

Those at the event were able to pay £1 to cut off some of her hair.

Basingstoke Gazette:

She said: “The nerves disappeared when people turned up. It felt really good and liberating. Although it wasn’t long, I had let it grow longer than normal and it got to the stage where I really wanted it cut off.”

The 49-year-old, from Winchester Road, plans to keep her head shaved for a month to raise awareness, adding: “Every time someone looks at me I say ‘I had my head shaved for charity’. It’s a bit of an ice breaker.”

Vanda thanked those who had helped make the head shave a success.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Miss Whitman, from Oakley, hopes that raising money for research into the condition will result in a cure being found, so other families do not have to suffer the same pain she has.

She said: “We could lose her at any moment in time. We are taking it day by day and making the most of every day that we have got her.

“There will come a time when she will grow some wings and she’ll give up the fight and pass away.

“But until that day arrives we are making as many memories as we can.”

She added: “My family and I are so moved and touched from the generosity of all involved. It’s overwhelming and I’m lost for words.”

For more information on The Lily Foundation visit thelilyfoundation.org.uk.

To donate to Vanda’s head shave challenge visit justgiving.com/fundraising/KeiraElmer.