A CASTLEMAINE family is seeking to raise almost $100,000 for a procedure that could change life as they know it.
Three-year-old Austin Vearing has cerebral palsy, which affects his legs and his left hand.
Austin has an opportunity to undergo surgery, which his family hopes will enable him to walk independently, reduce pain and boost his quality of life.
But they'll need to travel to the USA for treatment.
The family is hoping to raise $97,000 for Austin's treatment.
"The surgery is performed in the lower part of the spine by severing through nerves to reduce the spasticity in his body," Austin's parents, Kat and Julian Vearing, wrote in a GoFundMe appeal.
"While this isn't a cure to his cerebral palsy, without this spasticity his body won't be as restricted.
"He will have better posture and control, gain the ability to move in and out of positions with more ease, be more comfortable and in less pain, have a better quality of life, and it is expected he will be able to walk independently on all surfaces."
Austin has already been accepted for the selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery, which is scheduled for June.
In addition to the SDR operation, the fundraising goal takes into account orthopaedic surgery on Austin's left ankle and equipment to support him in his rehabilitation.
"Whatever we have left over will be put towards flights and one month's accommodation in St Louis," the GoFundMe page said.
Mrs Vearing said the SDR procedure was not offered to the same extent in Australia.
"They only offer it in the public system and only to a handful of kids a year," she said.
Other challenges in Australia included Austin's age and the type of spasticity he experiences.
"We decided it's best we do it there, do it as early as we can and then he's got the best chance of success at school," Mrs Vearing said.
She and her husband heard about the procedure from the media and from the experiences of other families.
Austin can take about five steps independently.
His parents' dream is for him to grow to lead a pain-free and independent life.
Austin's care involves physiotherapy and intensive exercise therapy, and is soon to include occupational therapy.
With the help of a walking frame and orthotic devices, Austin plays and chases his little brother around the house.
Water play was the highlight of Austin's Tuesday. His favourite toys include trucks and trains.
His parents describe him as "a funny, bubbly three-year-old who loves cars, trains, jumping in muddy puddles, and the park."
Austin was born prematurely, arriving on Christmas day.
"He was massive for his age," Mrs Vearing said.
"He put on weight and did everything he was meant to do."
When he was about four months old, Austin missed milestones like rolling and moving his hands.
But Mrs Vearing said she wasn't always believed when she raised concerns about her son's health.
"You beat down people's doors a lot," she said.
Fundraising during a global pandemic had its challenges, which have called for the family to think more creatively about the activities they can organise to generate support.
Mr and Mrs Vearing were arranging a virtual four-kilometre walk for Austin on the eve of his birthday.
"We're going to invite everyone to grab your families and go out for a walk or a run on Christmas Eve and help us fundraise a bit more," Mrs Vearing said.
Her husband was also planning on doing a 100-kilometre bike ride in 2021.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/f/austins-wish-to-walk