Fight for Forrest: single mum's incredible love story

MEET Forrest Holt.

He's the four-year-old who has had more than 60 surgeries and procedures and more than 300 blood transfusions after being born seven weeks premature.

Overnight, he melted hearts as he took to the stage with his mother, Tonia Reynolds, 33, at a fundraiser featuring Aussie hit maker and Newsboys founder Peter Furler in California.

Stay Strong is one of the former Sunshine Coast band's most rousing songs and it's something Forrest and Tonia have had to do every day after he was born with a malformation which left his right leg massively bigger than the other.

The condition has meant that at four, Forrest has yet to walk, let alone run like his movie namesake.

To complicate things even further, he also needs a kidney transplant.

Forrest was born in a hospital in Germany, where his father served in the Army.

Tonia said Forrest spent the first 356 days of his life in five hospitals in two countries.

"Unfortunately, both of his conditions - vascular malformation and kidney disease - are life long."

Despite the incredible battles he's faced, Forrest remains the happiest boy you could meet, always smiling, offering high fives and hugs.

"He looks like a one year old, talks like a four year old and acts like a 16-year-old,'' Tonia said of gutsy little champion.

As his mum told his story, almost on cue, he nuzzled into her neck, while he showed Peter Furler the love with a hug.

In the show finale, Tonia, Forrest and close supporters flooded the stage for a dance as Furler performed his worship hit He Reigns, a song now featured in church services around the world.

He is currently recovering from surgery in June and faces more rounds of procedures.

Tonia, a single mum, said she had been overwhelmed by the support of the local community and remains optimistic that advances in medical technology will ultimately see her son live a normal life.

"My kids keep me going. They are just so happy and they are bonded. They love each other and Carter is so protective of Forrest,'' she tells News Corp Australia.

Asked what it was like to have people come out in support of Forrest, Tonia began to cry.

"It's really hard to take care of two kids.

"I have to drive to LA for his dialysis Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

"Carter just started first grade last week and he also plays hockey.

"So my time is literally LA, the school, the hockey rink and being a mum.'' "They take up all my time but they complete all my time. It's a beautiful thing.

"But it's just difficult.

"I'm just trying to give them the life that they deserve, that I had growing up.

Peter Furler performs He Reigns at the fundraiser for Forrest Holt as Forrest and his mum and friendship join him on stage.
Peter Furler performs He Reigns at the fundraiser for Forrest Holt as Forrest and his mum and friendship join him on stage.

She said the positive messages coming through Christian music had helped her to cope.

"One of my favourite quotes is that everybody dies but not everybody lives. "You have to live your life… you have to go through hardships but you also have to be happy and embrace everything that life throws your way.''

In September last year, a fighting fund was set up via gofundme under the banner of #ForrestStrong on behalf of the Carpinteria family.

"Tonia is Forrest's relentless and determined mother. She is a capable, strong and independent woman who has devoted her life to Forrest, and her other son, (then) five year old Carter,'' the post said.

"She has fiercely advocated for her kids, and is a critical part of Forrest's medical team. She is steadfast, doesn't complain, and puts the needs of her family ahead of her own.

"Her only source of income has been to be paid as Forrest's nurse when he is at home giving him around-the-clock care.

"When Forrest is in the hospital, and under the care of the amazing doctors and nurses at CHLA, there is no income stream for the family.

"The #Forreststrong Nation has done an amazing job supporting this family, however, on top of this current crisis, their needs will continue as Forrest is currently facing several more surgeries (including a kidney transplant), and will also need our support in the future."

The family's estimated monthly basic living expenses are approximately $4500 per month, which includes hefty fuel bills to get him to and from hospital.

You can donate here

Visit the ForrestHoltStrong Facebook page here

Mark Furler is News Corp's group digital editor, overseeing more than 40 regional news websites. He's also the brother of Peter Furler and cousin of Sia Furler.

Topics:  california disease editors picks hospital kidney failurse newsboys parenting peter furler surgery transport

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