Located in a tight-knit Lincolnshire village is an independent garage which has gone out of its way to help support a local girl who was diagnosed with medullablastoma cancer at the age of nine.
Unable to get treatment here the UK, 11-year-old Demi Knight’s family is facing costs of £17,000 a month, plus hotels and flights to Houston, Texas in America where she can get antineoplaston therapy and treatment every two weeks.
With the backing of Manby Motors, the local community has so far raised more than £100,000, and Demi’s health is showing signs of improvement.
“We couldn’t just sit back”
Paula Bonnett of Manby Motors, who has been a key player in raising funds for Demi, said: “As a family garage, we couldn’t just sit back and watch a local girl suffer.
“If we can help in anyway, it’s worthwhile.
“Demi’s improving and looks so much better than the start of her treatment.
“She has energy and is now becoming the little girl she once was before her illness took over.
“The family have paid for a lot if it themselves and as a community we’ve raised around £100,000 so far which is about half way to our target.”
As well as selling craft items to garage customers, Manby Motors also took part in a local family fun day and raised more than £1,300 in a grand raffle.
In 2016 Demi had been given the all-clear following radiotherapy, chemotherapy and surgery here in the UK but in March of this year, she was told that her tumour had returned and, due to the dosage of treatment received in 2016, she’s unable to get further treatment in the UK.
Readers that wish to donate to the case can do so via fundraising website, Go Fund Me.
Building the family business
Ran by Paula’s parents, Nigel and Elaine Bonnett, the garage first opened in 2002 and has established itself as trusted family-run business.
Elaine said: “It was my husband’s lifelong ambition to open his own garage and it was important for us to open it in the village where we have been all our lives.
“It was a huge decision at the time because we had a young family, a mortgage and bills to pay but it was worth the risk.
“It’s hard work though, I feel like a lot of people have had bad experiences in the past with garages, which has given them a poor perception.
“We work hard to ensure our customers get an honest, fair and pleasant experience.”
The business has grown dramatically since it first opened, most recently with the addition of a bodyshop, and now employs eight staff.
“It’s not easy,” adds Nigel.
“Whenever we get a little bit of money in the bank we have to reinvest it into the business.
“About six years ago I bought a new injector kit for pulling injectors out of Vauxhall Vivaros for about £1,900 but now they’ve modified the engines, I’ve has to buy the updated kit which has cost around £2,500
“Everything’s changing all the time and now it seems more and more people are getting brand new cars on PCP or lease.
“It means they can just hand the car back after three years and not have to worry about anything going wrong.
“Even so, we market ourselves as an all-makes and models garage and that includes cars still under warranty.”
Getting to know Nigel
How did you get into the industry?
I’ve been playing with spanners ever since I was eight. I left school and became an apprentice at an independent, until I left because the money was terrible. I then starting work as an agricultural mechanic on a farm.
What was on your last job sheet?
An MOT on Fiat Ducato motorhome – it failed on welding on the front jacking points.
What’s the best vehicle you’ve worked on?
A 1983 Volkswagen Polo, one of our regular customer’s has one – it’s a real blast from the past.
And the worst vehicle?
It really is Land Rover, they’re not reliable at all.
What’s the most useful garage tool you have used?
That’s a hard one. Most useful I guess is our Snap-on diagnostics kit.
What’s the most useless garage tool you have ever used?
I bought a set of pulling kits for VW bearing but it just doesn’t do the job. Worst part is, the kit was nearly £1,000.
What’s your ideal day off?
I don’t get one. I work six days a week, sometimes seven.
What profession would you be in if you weren’t a vehicle technician?
I think I’d be in sales of some sort.
What is the highlight of your career?
Whenever you rebuild an engine, turn the key and it strikes up. It’s a beautiful sound. You bring it in the workshop completely worn, strip it down, fully recondition it, put it back in the vehicle and turn the key. You feel as though you really have achieved something.
What is the biggest challenge the industry faces at the moment?
The biggest challenge is new vehicles. Getting access to the data can be problematic and when you do get it, it’s usually vague. The complexity of cars now is incredible and can be very problematic.