PREMIER League footballer Darren Bent has helped smash a £5,000 fundraising target to fly a four-year-old Huntingdon boy to America to see a medical expert.

The Aston Villa striker donated £1,000 to the appeal which The Hunts Post launched last Wednesday to help Zane Smith, who has a rare brain condition.

By 4pm the same day, the £5,000 target had been reached and Zane Smith's parents, Lee and Kim Smith, were beginning their preparations to fly to Chicago for a unique scan that could shape the youngster's future.

Mr Bent, 28, a former Hinchingbrooke School student was Mr Smith's striking partner when they played together at Godmanchester Rovers under-11s to under-14s, before the England international left for Ipswich Town.

"It's amazing that he is helping a boy that he doesn't know," Mr Smith said. "There was also another £1,000 donation from International Foreign Exchange in Mayfair, but whether it was a £5 or a £1,000 donation it's a massive amount to give to a boy they don't even know."

Last night as The Hunts Post went to press the total raised had reached more than £7,600. The excess money will be donated to the charity Cavernoma Alliance UK.

Mr Smith, 29, of Essex Road, said: "It's unbelievable. I thought we were going to struggle to raise the money as it is just after Christmas and money is tight for everyone, but still people found money to donate - it's unreal.

"People from all over the world donated, from here in Huntingdon to Brazil, Canada and America. It was such a fantastic response that we could only dream of. People say a lot about Huntingdon but one thing that is for sure is that we have a great community spirit to help others."

Zane is one of just 100 people worldwide who suffers from CCM3, a genetic mutation of blood vessels in the brain that form lesions, or cavernomas, which can haemorrhage at any time and cause a stroke, seizure or even death.

Doctors at Hinchingbrooke Hospital discovered the condition around Zane's first birthday after a scan highlighted 15 cavernomas. Further scans last year showed that Zane had two more cavernomas, with two doubling in size.

The success of the appeal means that Zane and his parents are scheduled to fly to Chicago for April 15 where he will have a unique MRI scan at the CCM3 clinic at the University of Chicago and have a consultation with the world's leading CCM3 specialist, Dr Issam Awad.

Zane might also be eligible to take part in clinical trials if a cure for the condition is found.

Mr Smith added: "It means so much for us to get Zane out to America as we will find out a lot about the condition and will have a specialist doctor on hand to advise doctors in the UK if we ever need them."