Big-hearted people in Sussex have pulled together after reading about little Ashanti White, who has the rare ageing condition Progeria.

The family of the two-year-old, whose body is ageing eight times faster than normal, appealed for help in The Argus to find a cure for the rare condition.

Since then, calls have been flooding in to donate money to the Progeria Research Foundation in the USA and to Ashanti's family.

When Ashanti reaches the age of ten, her body will have the appearance of an 80-year-old as well as symptoms including baldness, arthritis and heart problems. There are about 40 known cases of Progeria worldwide and only four in the UK.

One of the others is eight-year-old Hayley Okines, from Bexhill, who featured in a documentary on Five this year called Extraordinary People. The average lifespan of children with Progeria is about 13 years and at present there is no cure.

Ashanti's grandmother Ann White, of London Road, Horney Common, near Nutley, is leading a fund-raising campaign.

Most of the money goes to the foundation in America, the only place in the world that is investigating the condition. Mrs White has already sent the foundation a cheque for 1,000 US dollars.

Mrs White, 56, a catering assistant, said: "We have raised money and sent it to the Foundation in America already but we need to keep raising more.

"If they can find a cure or something to help Ashanti and others like her, then that is what we want more than anything.

"We didn't really expect all this response, we knew people would be sympathetic but I am so grateful people have made donations. We also want to raise awareness so that it can help diagnosis of the condition.

"Every little bit helps and money means research. The family wants to say thank you to everyone who wants to help. It's fantastic."

Gemma Butler, manager of Anchor Trust retirement home, Vernon Court, Windlesham Road, Brighton, is setting up a fund-raising day for Ashanti after reading the article.

She said: "I read the article and so did a lot of my tenants and they all wanted to do something to help.

"Some of them were crying they were so touched by her story. We decided to do a fund-raising day with tea and coffee and a raffle and maybe a book sale. Hopefully the money we raise will help."

John Stevens, chairman of the Leach Court Social Club, Park Street, Brighton, said: "I read the article and I thought something should be done to help Ashanti and help with the research.

"So we are going to hold a coffee morning to raise some money. The people here have a fantastic spirit and want to do something to help."

Ashanti's parents, Phoebe, 20, and Wayne White, 36, of Denham Road, Burgess Hill, were shocked to discover their daughter had the rare disease.

They want to raise money to make Ashanti's life as full as possible by taking her on her dream holiday to swim with dolphins.

If you would like to make a donation to help Ashanti or the Progeria Research Foundation, call Sara Wallis at The Argus on 01273 544525 or visit Collection tins are at Binghams Restaurant and the Sugarmouse sweet shop, both in Uckfield, and at The Foresters Arms pub in Fairwarp, near Uckfield.