A teenager who was given the gift of a lifetime from the people of Otley last Christmas has just enjoyed a “fantastic” year exploring the countryside she loves.

Seventeen-year-old Olivia Payne, of Farnley Lane, has always loved roaming the local landscape. But until last December she was limited, due to the restrictions of her standard wheelchair, to sticking to surfaced paths.

That all changed, though, after Otley-based charity Hang On To A Dream raised the £9,400 needed to buy her the off-road, battery-powered wheelchair she had been hoping for for years.

College student Olivia, who developed complications which left her deaf and paraplegic after being born prematurely, was presented with the specialised wheelchair at last December’s Farmers Market.

Her mother, Joanna, described it at the time as “the best Christmas present she could ever have hoped for” and 12 months on she has found no reason to revise that opinion.

She said: “It has been a brilliant time and the Boma wheelchair has been fantastic, Olivia has had a wonderful year with it.

“We have been all over the place with it, including to a country park in Nottingham, and it’s lovely because we can all go cycling and she can come along with us now, whereas before that just wasn’t possible.

“Now we can all go as a family to the woods or wherever and explore things and Olivia is absolutely thrilled with it.”

The fundraising for the wheelchair didn’t go smoothly as Hang On To A Dream’s biggest fundraising event, the annual Otley Vintage Transport Extravaganza, had to be cancelled last September due to heavy rain.

But local residents and community groups rallied around and staged a host of other fundraisers to help the charity’s chairman, town councillor Nigel Francis, make sure enough money was coll-ected in time to get the gift to Olivia for Christmas.

As well as the wheelchair itself, which cost more than £8,000, the charity also had to raise funds to pay for the car modifications that were needed to allow Olivia’s family to transport it.

Joanna said: “Nigel and the Hang On To A Dream charity were brilliant and we are very grateful to them and to everyone who helped.

“Olivia is currently doing a life skill course at what was Park Lane College (now Leeds City College) in Horsforth and really enjoying that, so it has all worked out really well for her over the past year, she is really happy there.”

Looking forward to seeing her daughter continuing to enjoy the great outdoors in 2010, she added: “She loves the Boma and is always ‘bombing’ about on it, it has given a new dimension to her life and a new level of freedom, which is really, really great.”

Hang On To A Dream chairman Nigel Francis said: “When you actually achieve something and you see the smile on the face of the children you are helping that is the main thing, that’s why you do it.

“I’m very pleased it’s worked out so well for Olivia. Now work has already begun on next year’s transport rally, which I’ve started sending out the forms for.”