Poundland’s biggest fan enjoyed a day she will never forget as she enjoyed a VIP visit to her local store.

Six-year-old Layla Dudding, who has missed out on many things most children enjoy in life due to a serious heart defect, was able to sit behind the till and serve customers when she became a VIP at Poundland in Arnison Retail Park in Durham.

The Northern Echo: Layla Dudding and Aimee Hay with staff at Poundland Arnison Centre, Durham

Through Poundland Foundation and Make-A-Wish® UK, Layla was able to visit her favourite store on an extra special visit.

Her mum Aimee Hay said: “She had the absolute best time, the colleagues were amazing with her.

“She was gobsmacked that the Poundland colleagues knew she liked spaghetti hoops and gifted her some.”

In December, Layla and her mum were among 45 families who were flown to meet Santa in Lapland thanks to the generosity of Poundland shoppers.

The Northern Echo: Layla Dudding on the tills with Poundland staff on a visit to Poundland in Arnison Retail Park in

Layla was born with Hypoplastic right heart syndrome, meaning she only had half a working heart. Layla has had a particularly tough few years undergoing surgery over 30 times – which is why she was chosen to go on the trip.

Her condition sometimes leaves her oxygen levels very low, and unable to take part in activities enjoyed by other children, making the trip an especially important experience for Layla, who also has autism.

The £162,000 needed for the trip was raised through the Poundland Foundation, working with national charity Make-A-Wish® UK.

Customers are able to support the Poundland Foundation through Poundland’s Pennies scheme, where they can make digital donations at till points in all Poundland stores.

Poundland’s Durham store manager, Mike Dryden said: “It was so inspiring welcoming Layla to our store!

The Northern Echo: Layla Dudding with mascot Pound Hound at Poundland in Arnison Retail Park in Durham

“We had Pound Hound on hand to show Layla around and take her down the aisles. They were enjoying dancing together!

“We presented Layla with a bag of goodies to take home, which included some things which were pink - she loves pink - as well as some spaghetti hoops, which her Mum told us is her favourite thing to eat. We also gave Layla a Poundland branded t-shirt, badge, and lanyard with her picture on.

The Northern Echo: Layla Dudding with her goodies recieved on her visit to Poundland in Arnison Retail Park in Durham

“Being able to welcome Poundland’s biggest fan into our store and making her wish come true was an honour, we all loved having her here with us. She is such a super, happy girl.”

Aimee was 20 weeks pregnant with Layla when doctors delivered life-changing news: “They said that she wasn’t compatible with life.”

But against all odds, she came out “kicking and screaming.” At only three days old Layla underwent open heart surgery and has undergone four open heart surgeries and over 30 other surgeries in her life.

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Aimee said: “Layla is in a wheelchair, she's taken away from her friends at break time and she doesn’t understand why. So to be able to do all these fun things, that she has never been able to do, has been so exciting for her.”

Chief Executive at Make-A-Wish UK, Jason Suckley said: “Our goal is to bring happiness and joy to those children who have been diagnosed with a suffering from critical illnesses, so it’s incredibly heart-warming to see just how much joy Layla had in getting to be a VIP at her local Poundland store. We are extremely grateful to Poundland for their support making this visit possible – their support really does mean everything to the children and families who turn to us.”

The Poundland Foundation works to make futures brighter across the UK through its national and local grant programmes.

For more details about the Poundland Foundation please visit: https://poundlandfoundation.org.uk/