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On April 13th 2014 I will be running the London Marathon in memory of Thea Rose Redford, who passed away in November 2013, and raising money for the charity Chase Shooting Stars. If you would like to learn more about Thea please visit her memorial site here: http://thea.redford.muchloved.com.
The marathon is the second part of this fundraising exercise, after I completed hiking the length of the River Thames in seven days in early September 2013. At a distance of 186 miles that was an average of a marathon everyday, and while it left me pretty broken, it was absolutely worth it and I managed to raise around £4k (once Gift Aid was added) for the Thea's charity (at time of writing).
Running London has been an ambition of mine since I was 11 years old. I dragged myself around the Berlin Marathon in 2008, in a fraction under six hours. This time I am taking the training infinitely more seriously, and hope to run a considerably quicker time - if only because I can't face that length of punishment again.
I chose Chase Shooting Starts originally because I am at an age now where children are an important part of my life. I am a proud Godfather and will be an uncle twice over later this year.
With that in mind, it must be incredibly difficult when your child is born with a serious illness. My good friends Rob and Annabel had exactly that with their daughter Thea, and so I wanted to raise funds for Chase Shooting Stars because of the help they have given. Rob will put this far better than I can:
"Shooting stars help care for children with life limiting illnesses - ie they are unlikely to live past eighteen. Our daughter Thea suffered from a rare brain condition called PCH (or pontocerebellar hypoplasia for short). As far as these things go it's a real humdinger - the part of her brain that atrophied (stopped developing) controls pretty much everything the body does as a matter of course; coordination, learning, speech, even the ability to swallow and regulate breathing. Unfortunately this means that day to day life was a real struggle for Thea.
Shooting Stars supported us in that one of their carers came to the house every couple of weeks and looked after Thea while I took a break. As a parent, looking after a child with a life limiting illness can be physically and emotionally draining, and so this kind of respite care is phenomenally helpful and made a huge difference to our lives. In addition to this we were able to use the facilities at the shooting stars hospice where they have an amazing range of therapies available as well as rooms where parents can stay for the weekend while their children are cared for on-site by experienced nurses and staff. Again this is just a magnificent resource and it's really only when you visit the hospice that you start to appreciate the scale of the phenomenal work this charity does.
Thea is still very small and so much of the care we receive is kind of aimed at us as parents. One of the things that I love about shooting stars is the work that they do with older kids, and particularly teenagers. They allow these young adults to LIVE - to escape their parents, play video games, hang out with their mates, all the normal stuff that is often hard for them to do due to their respective conditions and the medical necessities that come with them. Our carer told me a great story the other day about a trip they put on for a load of teenagers to Brighton. The minibus pulled up and they all got out and straight away they all took off in their wheel chairs in different directions, determined to leave the adults behind, to have some fun, to be mischievous; classic teenagers, despite all their problems. I love that spirit and I love that shooting stars gives kids the chance to do this kind of thing.
Everyone who comes under the auspices of shooting stars has one thing in common - that the time we have left with our kids is short. This charity helps us and many, many other families make the most of our time with our beloved little rascals, whether it's through active therapies and the use of amazing facilities or through support and rest and practical help. And that is a beautiful thing."
So there we are - thanks for taking the time to read this. If you'd like to donate I'd be hugely grateful.