Brave Derby youngster Harley Penty will be the star of this year’s Derbyshire County Show when he guest-rides in Big Pete; a 16ft Monster Truck who will be performing in the main arena in June.
The four-year-old, who was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer aged just 15 months, will ring the end-of-treatment bell at the Queens Medical Centre, in Nottingham, on Friday.
Harley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in March 2016 and has endured three years of aggressive and lengthy chemotherapy treatment.
Organisers of the Derbyshire County Show chose little Harley, from Littleover, out of hundreds of people who entered a Facebook competition, with a chance to ride in the Monster Truck.
Mum Leanne Penty says that her son is ‘so excited’ about riding in Big Pete at the 139th Derbyshire County Show, which takes place at Elvaston Showground on Sunday, June 23.
She said: “Harley is so excited; he keeps telling everyone that he is going to be riding in a massive truck.
“Throughout his treatment, Harley has been super brave. He’s a happy little chap with a sunny personality.
“He loves all sorts of big vehicles; motorbikes, diggers, cranes, bin lorries. I can’t wait to see his face light up when he’s in the truck.”
The past three years have been a rollercoaster of a ride for the Penty family; mum Leanne, dad Tony and Harley’s siblings Ronnie (5) and Kelsey (11).
Harley was a happy baby, reaching all of his early milestones, before developing a pink rash on his neck and groin.
“We did the glass test; where you press a clear glass onto the rash to see if it disappears. It’s commonly used as an early detector of meningitis septicaemia. If the rash does not fade under a rolled glass, then it can be a sign of blood poisoning.
“Harley’s rash didn’t disappear – and we couldn’t get him in to see a GP – so we took him straight to the accident and emergency department at the Royal Derby Hospital. At this point, he seemed well in himself. He was running around the A&E department and playing with the toys there, so we didn’t think anything was too wrong.
“Doctors took blood from Harley, just as a precaution, and this was sent off to the laboratory immediately. Again, we weren’t too concerned.
“But when the doctor came back and told me that something was wrong, I was physically sick. It’s not something that, as a parent, you expect to hear.
“I felt like I was watching the scene play out in front of me on TV. You hear stories of children with childhood cancer dying; it’s very rare you hear of those who make it through.
“All I kept thinking was ‘this can’t be happening to us’ – Harley was oblivious to all the fuss going on around him.”
By 10pm that evening, Harley had been transferred to the QMC for further tests and was being prepped for surgery; the tot would need a bone marrow test, lumbar puncture and a central line inserting into his tiny body; a long, thin flexible tube which is used to administer medicine, fluid and vital nutrients.
“The first eight months were intense,” said Leanne, “we didn’t know how long he would be in hospital for and, at one point, he was in there for 13 successive weeks.
“Our daughter, Kelsey, was nine at the time and she coped quite well. She was a little anxious and angry but seemed to understand what was happening.
“Our son, Ronnie, is just 12 months older than Harley and the pair are very close. He spent a lot of time with relatives and can now be quite clingy with me. He doesn’t like to be apart from me.
“We had a lot of help from friends and relatives, in particular my mum, Lynda Snaith, and Tony’s mum, Christine Wilkinson, who would stay over at our house.”
Harley’s most recent bone marrow test revealed that there were no more traces of cancer in his body – but little Harley’s life has changed dramatically. The chemotherapy has caused hypogammaglobulinaemia; a condition which affects the antibodies in his body and means that Leanne has to inject his tiny body with medicine every week.
The family weren’t sure they would see the day when Harley got the chance to ring the end-of-treatment bell – and are marking the achievement with a huge party for friends and family at Mickleover RBL this weekend.
“You’re never quite sure whether or not you’ll get the chance to ring the bell, which signals the end of treatment,” said Leanne.
“It seemed like forever away. We had spoken before about organising a party to celebrate but didn’t want to tempt fate. Now that we’re so close to ringing that bell, we can relax a little and look forward to the party, where there will be entertainers and a bubble machine.
“We have more than 100 guests coming along, people who have been on this journey with us – some who we have never even met but who have supported Harley.
“Seeing Harley riding in the Monster Truck will be the icing on the cake.”
Michael Murty, owner of Big Pete Monster Trucks, is delighted to be bringing the spectacular vehicles to the Derbyshire countryside. He says he is delighted to have made Harley’s dream come true.
He said: “Harley is a very deserving winner and we can’t wait to welcome him on board.”
“Our shows aim to impress. We are the only team operating in the UK who have two trucks – Big Pete and Grim Reaper – working together, simultaneously, in the main arena.
“Our drivers – me included – provide amusing commentary throughout the performance, as the trucks move around the arena crushing cars and jumping up to 15ft in the air. It really is an impressive sight and guaranteed to wow the crowds.”
The Derbyshire County Show was first held at Elvaston in 1970 but, after heavily waterlogged conditions forced the 2016 event to be cancelled, the show was moved to Locko Park in Spondon.
Last year’s event attracted 11,000 people last year and organisers are hoping for similar – if not more – visitors this year.
As well as Big Pete Monster Trucks – a new attraction for 2019 – there will be plenty of old favourites at the Derbyshire County Show, including livestock displays, vintage cars and tractors and show jumping.
“We pride ourselves on offering a wide variety of entertainment that all the family can enjoy,” said Edward Hicklin, chairman of the Derbyshire Agricultural and Horticultural Society – organisers of the Derbyshire County Show.
“The county show has a very grand history stretching back to 1860 and we have a proud reputation to uphold; staging an event which has something for every member of the family and celebrates all that is good about the countryside on our doorstep.”
Tickets are now available on the Show website, priced at £10 for adults, £9 for senior citizens and £7 for children. Under-5s are admitted free of charge – over-16s pay adult price.