ROOKIE boxers punched above their weight as they took on a marathon challenge to help a young girl get the surgery she needs.

Isla-Rose Wilkinson, aged five, suffered brain damage during birth and has cerebral palsy.

During pregnancy her mother Lauren contracted a virus which resulted in the eventual failure of the placenta and led to premature childbirth.

Isla-Rose is described as a wonderful little girl who enjoys life to the full, but has extremely limited mobility and difficulty with speech.

She has a wheelchair and communicates using a mixture of mimicking speech and Makaton sign language, learned while watching TV.

Hospital trips to see consultants and many other appointments have become a way of life for the family.

Over the past five years, Isla has had a range of treatments from morphine in the first six months of her life to medication used to assist with muscle relaxation and spasticity.

She has been fitted for splints and bodysuits to assist with her posture and has taken part in extensive physiotherapy.

Physically-demanding programmes working on core stability were almost completely self-funded by Isla’s family.

The youngster now needs surgery.

Isla-Rose will be assessed to decide if is accepted for a surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).

The main goal of SDR is to relax the muscles to encourage independent walking in children with cerebral palsy.

If the surgery is approved by the NHS it may still not be funded, so soldiers from 16 Medical Regiment have started a fundraiser to help cover the costs.

A spokesman for 16 Medical Regiment said: “We hope and pray it will be approved and Isla will be given the chance to have a better quality of life.”

They also ran a 24-hour “punchathon” to help raise the funds.

The event took place in Halstead Boxing Gym last Thursday, starting at 12pm.

Two teams of five novice boxers each took on the challenge of 12 minutes of punching, with a 48-minute rest, every hour for 24 hours.

This made sure at all times there was someone on the bag and pads punching from the first minute to the 1,440th minute.

The £500 target of the fundraiser has now been smashed, with a huge £2,895 raised so far by more than 100 supporters.