A BIRTHDAY celebration for North Tawton rugby captain Craig Dennis, who was left with life-changing injuries after an accident has resulted in thousands of pounds being raised towards his ongoing treatment and rehabilitation appeal.

Held at North Tawton Rugby Club, where Craig is first team captain, Craig and his wife Chloe and family and friends were joined by fundraisers who have raised vast sums towards his appeal.

It has been a remarkable journey for Craig, who was there to celebrate his 26th birthday, because it was only 76 days previously that he had fallen from a roof whilst helping on his parents farm at North Tawton, sustaining multiple injuries.

The party began with the arrival of 18-year-old rugby player Guy Hamer who, although had never met Craig until the party, had undertaken a sponsored walk of 253 miles between rugby clubs in the area in nine days raising more than £1,000 towards the fund.

Also during the evening, Matt Baker had his hair and eyebrows shaved, Alex Dennis had half of his beard shaved and Sam Bullingham had his head and beard shaved. Between them they raised thousands of pounds. Chloe thanked Guy and those who had their heads shaved and presented them with gifts.

In her speech on the evening, Chloe said: ‘A fall from 20ft onto concrete below resulting in a severe brain injury with scarily high brain pressures and the fear of brain damage more likely than not, two vertebraes compressing on the spinal cord causing paralysis from the waist down, three other fractured vertebraes, two broken ribs, many fractured skull bones, a significant blood clot within one of the main Venus veins that drains from the brain, three near cardiac arrests, pneumonia and lots of other complications — and here we are 76 days later and Craig looks absolutely amazing.

‘If I hadn’t have been there every scary day of the way I’d find it quite hard to believe that he could have possibly been through all of it because he looks so well, and the fact he’s still managing to hold onto that tan some might even think he’s been off on a nice long holiday! But sadly I’ve got the under eye bags as proof of very little sleep, a whole lot of worry and sadly no sunny get away!

‘On admission and with the nature of Craig’s injury the average rehabilitation time would be a minimum of 12 weeks with some patients spending over a year or more in rehab, however, Craig was discharged just four weeks after he was admitted, which is probably the best birthday present for Craig any of us could have wished for.

‘The support, love and generosity we have been shown from so many people has been a huge factor in motivating Craig and keeping him positive every step of the way. From the moment Craig’s accident became public, the offer of love, support and help has been truly overwhelming.

‘Everyone says that the rugby community is more of a family and I honestly can now see it, we have received so much from so many different clubs and players. North Tawton have been amazing in keeping Craig motivated, and have hosted this evening which I’m sure you will all agree has been a huge success.’

Fundraising for Craig’s cause is still continuing, as next week six of his North Tawton team mates — Will Sharp, Jack Phare, Ben Sharp, Matt Baker, Ryan Gross and Jordan Cornthwaite — will be taking on the Three Peaks Challenge. The team will be assisted by two drivers, Kevin Avery and Colin Sharp, as they climb the three highest peaks of Scotland, England and Wales — Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

Will Sharp said: ‘We all play rugby together at North Tawton and we all wanted to do something for Craig. Because we play rugby, we’re all pretty fit but we wanted to do something challenging.

‘We went to the pub for a pint and threw a few ideas around and liked the idea of climbing the three peaks.’

The team set off on Wednesday (September 25), where they will first climb Ben Nevis, then drive the six hour journey from Scotland back to England where they will climb Scafell Pike and Snowdon in the same day. They will return to Devon on Saturday (September 28).

The team have set up a fundraising website where they intended to raise £2,500, but through generous local sponsors and a cheque for £500 from Okehampton Rotary Club, the team is well on its way to achieving its target — but they hope to exceed it and raise as much money as possible.

To sponsor them visit www.gofundme.com/climbforcraig and to keep up to date with their progress search ‘Climb for Craig’ on Facebook.