This is the story of Cornel and God’s hand upon his life. He was taken from birth without his parents consent and put in an orphanage at Suceava, northern Romania. Eventually his parents traced him but, as they were so poor, it was impossible for them to even consider taking him home as both worked long hours to support other siblings. And so Cornel remained for 9 long months until Doreen Munn first saw him in September 1992 whilst delivering aid to Romania.
An orphanage doctor asked her if anything could possibly be done in the UK to help this little boy. On return to England, enquiries were made and, with help from a nursing friend Anne Martin, an offer of free treatment on his useless twisted leg was made by Worcester BUPA Hospital.
The next 7 months were spent in contact with various officials in Romania to try and arrange for Cornel to travel to England for treatment. This included contacting his parents through the orphanage to gain their legal consent.
In April 1993, Cornel was brought to England by Doreen and Anne. Due to the complexity of his disability it took 10 months before final consultations with top surgeons decided that amputation of the leg was the best course of action. The follow up care would necessitate him remaining in this country as there was no provision for artificial limbs in Romania and he would therefore end up back in the orphanage as before. Doreen and Ken Munn made the decision to adopt him to secure his future. In March 1994 Cornel was operated on by Mr John Davis at South Bank BUPA Hospital Worcester. Having gained his parents permission and fulfilled the many UK adoption requirements, Cornel was officially adopted by Doreen and Ken Munn in June 1994.
Finally he was fitted with his first artificial leg at Oak Tree Lane Rehabilitation Centre in Birmingham and took his first tentative steps. Four weeks later Cornel was walking unaided. This was the start of his amazing list of achievements. Cornel was fitted with an artificial arm in April 1995. He found the arm was too heavy and cumbersome as it restricted his activities. With his strong determination he soon found he could do better with what he had.
In the summer of 1995 Ken and Doreen took Cornel back to Romania to visit his Mum and Dad. They were amazed to see his progress and capabilities.
September 1996 was a milestone for Cornel, as it is for all children, when he began mainstream school at St Clements in St Johns, Worcester. He quickly established himself as being as competent and capable as any other child.
On 12th September 1998, aged 6 years, Cornel raised £8,500 by riding his tricycle 4 miles around Gheluvelt Park in Worcester. The money raised was to help treat Bobo, a young boy living in Romania who was sick with leukaemia, as his parents were too poor to pay for the treatment he needed.
In 2001, Cornel, then aged 9 years, took part in the Blue Peter Bikeathon in aid of leukaemia research. He completed several laps of a course around a park in Bromsgrove, approx 5 miles, and raised a total of £350.
In June 2003 all the schools around Worcester were asked to take part in a competition where the students had to write a story or poem on the theme ‘100 years of aviation’. Cornel submitted a Poem and won, his prize being a Helicopter ride.
When Cornel left his junior school, St Clements, in July 2003 he was awarded the Citizenship Award, which was given for his amazing abilities and his work for others.
In August 2003, Cornel, Ken and Doreen returned to Romania with a BBC film crew who made a documentary about his story, the orphanage he was found in and where he would have gone at 3 years. The film also included Cornel meeting his parents and family again.
A copy of the video is available, which also shows other events and Cornel carrying out school work.
In March 2004, in recognition for Cornel’s fund raising efforts, he was awarded the Pride of Britain Child of Courage Award. Ken and Doreen were asked to take Cornel to the Manchester United football ground and, whilst there, Ruud Van Nisterooy surprised Cornel by informing him that he had won the award. The following week they attended a ceremony at the Hilton Hotel London where the award was presented by Ali Abbas and Carol Vorderman. After his presentation, Cornel told Carol that he did not want people to pity him and pledged to continue to raise money for others. He said: ‘I am just like everyone else, it is just a visual thing and it does not affect my attitude to life. I now plan to try and raise money towards a limb `centre in Romania’.
In April 2004, Worcester County Council awarded Cornel the citizenship Award for his fund raising efforts.
In September 2004 he was presented with the Douglas Bader Award for inspiration to others, awarded by the limbless association. Douglas Bader was a fighter pilot in the war and lost both his legs when his plane was shot down. He was told that he would never fly again but, against all odds, he did, hence the award.
Pictured here are: Debbie and Ken McCrea (The Clinical director of the charity), along with Cornel and his Mum, Doreen Munn.
In April 2005, so inspired by Cornel’s efforts, his school nominated him for the Princess Diana Memorial award for inspiration and success against all odds.
The school wrote: ‘The award is in recognition of his outstanding perseverance against disability, his tireless work to raise funds for others facing severe handicap and hardship and his success against the odds in school and life.’
The charity was formed following Cornel’s statement at the Pride of Britain Award Ceremony when he announced that his next project was to raise funds for a limb centre in Romania.