'On Saturday 8 January 2000 my little girl Lydia, who was just two and a half, contracted meningococcal septicaemia, one of the most dangerous forms of meningitis,' says Val Stephenson.
'Lydia was a mischievious, cheeky child, full of fun, who always filled the house with noise. That morning Lydia woke with a temperature of more than 104. I immediately rang my GP and he told me to give her Calpol and make sure she had plenty of fluids. She was off-colour, although nothing made me think that she was desperately ill. But as the day wore on, Lydia seemed to get worse and then a rash appeared.
'A couple of weeks before, I'd been given a Meningitis Trust symptoms card by my health visitor and it was the card that helped me spot Lydia's symptoms that night. I knew every second counted and we had to get medical assistance as soon as possible.
'We drove to hospital and the doctor asked to see Lydia's rash. As they moved the sheet off her body, the doctor's face confirmed my worst fears.
It was meningococcal septicaemia. This is every parent's worst nightmare and it was happening to my little girl.
'Lydia pulled through, but it was only after a long, hard fight. The septicaemia resulted in her losing part of her thumb and two fingers on her left hand. She also has lots of scarring on the backs of her hands and legs.
'Since Lydia's recovery I've done all I can to raise awareness of meningitis and fundraise for the Meningitis Trust so they can be there for other families who have to cope with the devastation caused by this disease.
'The day Lydia took part in our local Toddle Waddle event in Derby was special. Just nine months earlier she was fighting for her life. The walk was a happy day, but also a poignant one. It reminded Lydia's friends of how close they'd come to losing her.'
Toddle Waddle The Meningitis Trust Toddle Waddle is a sponsored walk for the under- fives. Every year hundreds of parents, carers and toddlers participate in waddles to raise money for the Trust.
Sometimes it's a small affair - a couple of mums getting together with children and friends and toddling round the garden. Other times, the events are much larger and take place in parks, playgrounds and nurseries.
Meningitis is still responsible for more deaths among the under-fives than any other infectious disease in the UK. All the funds raised from the Toddle Waddle will go towards the Trust's three main aims: to fund life-saving research; to educate and raise awareness among the public and healthcare professionals about meningitis; and to provide vital emotional and practical support to patients, their families and friends. This year Toddle Waddle will take place during the fortnight of 3 to 16 October.
Event organiser Leigh Pearce says, 'Last year we raised more than Pounds 350,000 from over 900 Toddle Waddles. This is a phenomenal amount. We're here to give every group that takes part as much help as they need, from providing free balloons and stickers to fundraising advice and information about meningitis.
'The Meningitis Trust mascot, Monty the Duck, spearheads the event. While the emphasis is on fun, there is also a serious message about the dangers of meningitis and how parents and early years professionals must be aware of the signs and symptoms of the disease.'
Her Royal Highness the Countess of Wessex is Meningitis Trust Royal Patron and has endorsed the event. She says, 'We should all be tremendously grateful for the sterling work being done by the people at the Meningitis Trust, and I urge you to do whatever you can to support this work to carry on the fight and help those children and families affected by this awful disease.'
* You can register online today at www. toddlewaddle.org or call 0845 120 45 30 for more information about this year's Toddle Waddle