A football-loving 12-year-old with cerebral palsy can finally play the game with his pals on an Xbox – thanks to a specially designed controller.
Finlay Sangster, from Stonehaven, was surprised at his school by British Airways pilot Jonathan Knowlson and whisked off to London as part of the project BA Magic, which aims to create special moments.
The young Rangers fan and Mill O’ Forest pupil has always wanted to play Xbox with his friends but was unable to due to his condition.
His mum Gail had looked into the possibility of buying him the game console then using a specially adapted controller from the charity SpecialEffect in Oxford, but the idea had remained a pipe dream.
However, she e-mailed BA and asked whether they could help out in any way.
Gail said the airline had gone above and beyond on the family’s behalf; it even arranged for Rangers player Josh Windass to show up at their home at the end of their experience and personally deliver the Xbox to Finlay.
“We were put up in a lovely hotel and the company really went above and beyond for us – as well as getting us to SpecialEffect so Finlay could work with them to specially adapt a controller.”
When British Airways organised their surprise visit to Finlay’s school they also presented him with a signed Real Madrid shirt from his idol Cristiano Ronaldo – addressed to Finlay by the superstar – and he received a video message from Rangers’ captain Lee Wallace.
And Finlay’s father, a supercar fan, was allowed to drive them to the airport in a Lamborghini Huracán Spyder.
The following day, British Airways made arrangements for Finlay and his family to visit SpecialEffect – a charity that helps people with disabilities play video games, by using technology that ranges from modified joypads to eye-control.
The organisation assessed Finlay to work out the exact requirements for his bespoke remote control, and ensured he could finally enjoy the magic of playing on an Xbox, together with his friends and family.
The SpecialEffect charity said it had been rewarding to work with Finlay.
Mark Saville from the organisation said: “We worked with occupational therapists and with Finlay to see what he was capable of doing.
“From there we managed to make a controller with a big joystick and two buttons around 5cm to 6cm in diameter in easy reach.
“This all goes down to the hard work of the team here who design it, and it was great to be able to do this for Finlay and his family.
“Finlay actually said to me ‘thank you for making my dream come true’ and this is the whole reason we do what we do.”
On their last day in London the family were taken on a surprise visit to Hamleys toy shop which had opened early just for them, where Finlay and Brodie were treated to some early Christmas gifts.
BA ensured there was some magic included for Gail and Bruce too, by surprising them with a holiday to New York – the city they had been desperate to return to for their upcoming wedding anniversary.
“It wasn’t all about Finlay as BA also treated us and my other son Brodie with tickets to KidZania, an indoor city run by kids and £100 each for Hamley’s in London,” Gail said.
“On Monday, Rangers player Josh Windass turned up with the new Xbox for Finlay and he was so excited, I haven’t got him to stop playing FIFA.”
Rangers midfielder Josh scored the equaliser against Hibs on Wednesday night and dedicated his goal to Finlay.
He tweeted after the game: “That goal was for you little man @finlaygail.”
Gail added that she could never have imagined anything like this happening when she first sent her e-mail.
She said: “It has just been so amazing – this whole experience. It is hard to put it into words.
“Finlay’s dream was to be able to play an Xbox and BA made his dream come true. It is like an early Christmas present, and they treated everyone.
“You see and read these stories about people and you never in your wildest dreams believe it will happen to you.
“His dad Bruce and I are incredibly grateful for everything that has been done. It is so humbling.”