Peregian Springs resident and Angelman Syndrome sufferer Amy Willis, 10 met Canberra Raiders star Iosia Soliola who is an ambassador for Angelman Syndrome. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Peregian Springs resident and Angelman Syndrome sufferer Amy Willis, 10 met Canberra Raiders star Iosia Soliola who is an ambassador for Angelman Syndrome. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

‘She’s a gift’: Footy star’s touching bond with miracle girl

SMALL milestones have become huge accomplishments for a Sunshine Coast girl who was never meant to walk, swim or talk.

Amy Willis, 10, has defied the odds of Angelman Syndrome, kicked her goals and drawn the attention of famous company in the process.

On Saturday, the Peregian Springs girl met passionate Angelman Syndrome advocate and Canberra Raiders star, Iosia Soliola.

Each game, the NRL player writes the name of a child with Angelman Syndrome on his arm to raise awareness for the syndrome that impacts one in 15,000 babies.

Three years ago, Amy's name was immortalised on his armband and was involved in what was labelled as one of the games' most sickening high tackles.

Billy Slater lost two weeks of his memory and Iosia was benched by the judiciary for five weeks.

Iosia Soliola wears Amy’s name on his armband the night Billy Slater was knocked unconscious from his high tackle in 2017. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
Iosia Soliola wears Amy’s name on his armband the night Billy Slater was knocked unconscious from his high tackle in 2017. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

Amy's mum, Marie-Louise Willis said the former international representative must have been channelling her daughter's stubborn side in the tackle.

It was Amy's determination and will to succeed that made Ms Willis' daughter the biggest gift of her life.

"When she was born, she was perfect, but it was six months in that they noticed signs of problems," she said.

It took two years for doctors to finally diagnose Amy with the extremely rare syndrome.

Angelman Syndrome, while not effecting the brain, impacts the ability to learn, move and speak.

Peregian Springs resident Amy Willis, 10, (from left) with her family Simon Barrett, Ethan Barrett, Ella Willis and Marie-Louise Willis who met Canberra Raiders star Iosia Soliola. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
Peregian Springs resident Amy Willis, 10, (from left) with her family Simon Barrett, Ethan Barrett, Ella Willis and Marie-Louise Willis who met Canberra Raiders star Iosia Soliola. Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily

Amy needs one-on-one care and is prone to extreme seizures.

Ms Willis said her life was turned upside down with the diagnosis she had ironically read about at a hairdressing salon while pregnant.

Despite the struggles, Ms Willis said the Nambour Special School student never gave up.

"Amy is amazing. She is honestly the most determined person … I have learned so much from her and from being her mother," she said.

Amy shocked everyone when she eventually learned to walk, then swim, and is now trying to speak.

"The thing I want for her more than anything is for her to speak because she desperately wants to," Ms Willis said.

"You take milestones for granted with a non-disabled child, but that first day she walked I'll never forget."

Iosia Soliola chats with Amy Willis and her mum, Marie-Louise Willis at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
Iosia Soliola chats with Amy Willis and her mum, Marie-Louise Willis at Sunshine Coast Stadium.

The family met Iosia in a touching exchange of hugs, fist pumps and handshakes at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday, before he handed over his training boots as a memento.

Iosia, and the rest of his Canberra side, have been at the Sunshine Coast on a 10-day training camp.

Iosia was first inspired to raise awareness for Angelman Syndrome after meeting a young girl and her mother while playing Super League in the United Kingdom.

Knowing a small gesture made a huge impact on a family was the most important aspect for Iosia.

"It's always a cool thing that we can have that community in what we do at our games, but also connecting with the families is just as important and you get to see how much it means to them," he said.


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