ABOUT one month ago, Murwillumbah mother of two, Donna Duff, woke up with a pain in her hip.
A little later, the 25-year-old lost all feeling and was diagnosed with an inflammation of the spinal cord which caused a crippling neurological disorder called Transverse Myelitis.
The disorder partially paralysed Mrs Duff and she was admitted to Southport Hospital where she was told she would have to undergo two years of rehabilitation.
Mrs Duff, the daughter of Murwillumbah's backpacker hostel manager Tassie, is well-known for her charity work and received the Banana Queen Senior Princess title in 1998.
Murwillumbah business Poster Paradise owner Sandra Guthrie said "that's just the way Donna is, she's a lovely person who helps anyone in need".
When Mrs Duff's condition became known around town, the community united and decided to organise a number of fundraising initiatives to help Mrs Duff and her family get through these tough times.
Mrs Guthrie printed a poster of Mrs Duff in a wheelchair with her two kids next to her and put the poster up in her business together with a tin asking people to donate money.
Family friend and Murwillumbah South Infants School principal Brendan Quinn showed his young students the poster and the entire student body, consisting of 15 school kids, immediately offered to help.
Mr Quinn said his young charges were so enthusiastic about helping Mrs Duff they even offered to donate their pocket money.
Today, the school held a crazy hair day and morning tea to raise funds and the kids spent most of the morning in class creating a get-well card for Mrs Duff.
One of Murwillumbah's favourite eateries, the Austral Cafe, donated a huge cake with an iced get-well message and a carton of milk for each of the kids.
"I'm a little bit sad that she is ill and a little bit happy we can do something to help.
"She'll be very proud of us," student Tobi Ford said.
"I think about her a lot, maybe she'll be our new friend," added Kathleen Bullus.
Principal Quinn said: "I couldn't be more proud of the kids".
Mrs Duff's father said he had been really touched by the community spirit.
"It's wonderful to see the responses from everyone in the town," Mr Duff said.
He said Donna was showing a slight improvement and was no longer paralysed up to the chest.
"The signs are really positive," Mr Duff said
The fundraising drive continues and anyone wishing to contribute can contact Mr Rocky Vercoe at the Austral Cafe, Ms Sandra Guthrie at Poster Paradise or the Riverside Pizza and Thai Cafe in Murwillumbah.
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