Tag Archives: charity events

“It’s nice knowing my hard work will make a difference” – Caroline takes on the Great South Run

Caroline is doing the Great South Run for Scope in honour of her friend, Vicky, who lost her leg in the Alton Towers Smiler crash.

For this blog, she chatted to us about her reasons for doing it, her journey so far and her determination despite her own injuries.

My friend Vicky was involved in the awful Alton Towers Smiler Crash where she lost her leg. She has had an incredibly tough time adjusting to her new life but has shown outstanding courage and bravery. She has overcome so many barriers and inspired thousands of people.

Despite her own heartbreak Vicky has helped me so much. Her courage has given me courage.

Vicky has sadly faced criticism and trolling online, which does get to her. I want to show her and other disabled people who have to deal with prejudice just how much support they have. It was after having a chat with one of my close friends, that I decided I wanted to do more for charity and for Vicky.

Why I’m supporting Scope

I chose to support Scope because they do such incredible work supporting disabled people and their families. They also campaign for equal rights which I think is amazing. I work as a teaching assistant, working with disabled students at a college in Cornwall. It’s an incredible job but sadly I see the prejudice they face every day, so the work that Scope does is very close to my heart.

caroline-2You’ve got to believe in yourself

Running or walking 10 miles doesn’t come naturally to me, but I know I can do it if I work at it. With help from my friends I have done lots of training for the run.

I have foot injuries so to run it would be very difficult. walking will be tough enough but I am determined to jog some too. I know that I can make it. You’ve just got to believe in your own abilities.

I organised a big fundraising event in my local pub

Tyacks Hotel have been so supportive and cannot thank them enough for all their help. I got so many incredible donations from so many local and national companies.

With all the amazing support from my family and friends it was a brilliant night and we raised £471 in just 3 hours. I was so pleased that I could do this for Scope and Vicky.

Some people didn’t think I’d be able to get great prizes or thought that it wouldn’t raise much. But I emailed a lot of companies, put myself out there, and got so many incredible prizes. The determination to help my friend was all I needed.

It’s nice knowing my hard work will make a difference

I get to help amazing charities and have an opportunity to do something great for myself and others. I feel like my hard work will make a real difference. Knowing it’ll be tough only makes me more determined to do it. I am very excited and just know it will be an incredible day.

My advice to anyone out there looking to take part in an event or raise money is don’t doubt yourself, we can all do things that we never expected.

If you feel inspired by Caroline and want to support Scope by taking part in one of our events, you can read more here. You can also sponsor Caroline here.

Learning to run again as an amputee – Chris’ story

In 2008, keen runner Chris and his wife Denise both lost their left legs in a motorbike accident. Together they recovered and Chris was determined to keep running. He’s since taken part in long-distance runs and triathlons, and in January 2016 he climbed Kilimanjaro to celebrate his 60th birthday. Chris is running the Royal Parks Half Marathon for Scope in October. In this blog he talks about learning to run again and why you shouldn’t let anything hold you back.

Getting back into running

There aren’t many amputee runners so a lot of it you just have to figure out for yourself. One of the first books I read after the amputation was Chris Moon’s autobiography. I got somebody to bring it to the hospital. I knew I needed it for inspiration, to get me excited about the possibility of running again!

We met with three prosthetic companies. When I asked about running, one of the prosthetists said he’d never had anyone wanting to run before but agreed it would be possible and his company would find a way. He actually got Oscar Pistorius’ prosthetist to come over and get me fitted up with a running leg that had an articulated knee. He got me running very quickly but it took a year until I could run 5km continuously with it.

The right prosthetic makes all the difference

After a while he suggested I try a pylon leg, which is one without an articulated knee. I really wasn’t keen because the movement is different. With an articulated knee the leg comes straight through, but you have to swing a pylon leg out to the side for ground clearance which looks awkward. But he said “Believe me Chris think it would make a big difference”. So we went to the running track, fitted the leg and I broke my 400m record within about 10 minutes!

We were told this statistic: if you’re a below the knee amputee you use about 15-25% more effort. If you’re above the knee, which I am, it’s 60%. It’s a lot of work! But with the pylon leg I can bounce along quite comfortably. Now when I’m running I’m not thinking about the leg. It’s just heart, lungs and the clock – just like it used to be.

Chris running the half marathon in Qatar
Chris running the half marathon in Qatar

How training has changed

Where we live is a fantastic place to run. There’s a National Trust property 500 metres up the road. You can run for miles on beautiful trails.

I’m slower now so the training takes longer; I have to plan it a bit more. I used to be able to run around six minutes a mile, now anything under 10 is good! Training for a half marathon now is a bit like training for a full marathon before the accident. I have done a full marathon with my pylon leg but it was a massive undertaking.

You have to take care of the stump, making sure you have Vaseline in all the right places! If you do get a rub it can stop you from training for about a week. You’ve also got to find a way to control sweating because the liner will start to slip. A friend suggested I try a car cloth because it absorbs a lot of moisture and it doesn’t slip. So I tried that, put the liner over the top and I’ve never looked back! It’s made a huge difference.

Advice for others

Get in contact with other people with a similar disability and find out what’s possible.

When I was training for my first triathlon I had no idea where to begin, particularly with cycling. I found para-athlete Sarah Reinertsen’s website and sent her an email. Within a couple of days she came back with a four page response with all the information I needed! I just used that as a guide book. The reason I can cycle is because of that email.

When we were still in Houston I spent some time chatting to a depressed young man who was just amazed that I was racing with an above the knee amputation. He’s racing now – and that proved to me that it’s not just about being physically able to do it but psychologically able too. So if I can inspire others, that’s what I’d like to do.

Chris running the half marathon in Houston, Texas.
Chris running the half marathon in Houston, Texas.

Don’t let anything hold you back

Despite our injuries we haven’t changed inside. We’re the same people, life goes on and it can be as enjoyable. It’s just a new normal.

Some of the runners I used to train and race with aren’t able to compete any more because of various injuries or health issues. Whereas I’m still thinking “what can I take on next?” – so I’m really not complaining!

I did my first triathlon in 2011 and it was just fantastic to learn a new endurance sport, something I’d never done before and with only one leg – it’s just incredible. And I climbed Kilimanjaro this year with my son – it was a treat for my 60th birthday!

Why I wanted to fundraise for Scope

In 2012 I joined my daughter in her first half marathon, ‘Run to the Beat’. We decided to raise funds for charity and, as a para-athlete, Scope was the obvious choice. Recently, Scope emailed me about Royal Parks and I thought “I would love to do that”. I love those parks and used to train in them when I worked in Central London. It’s also a chance to raise money again for Scope – it’s perfect!

Join Chris and the rest of Team Scope by running the Royal Parks Half Marathon this year. Sign up for £25 today and take on the challenge!

To read more of Chris and Denise’s story visit their website. You can also sponsor Chris here.

Cheer on our runners in the London Marathon

Come and volunteer with our events team at the London Marathon on Sunday 24 April and join our cheer spots along the route. You’ll be helping keep our 120 Scope runners motivated to keep going! 

Our main cheer spot will be near St George’s Gardens (102-106 The Highway, Shadwell, E1W 2BU), where runners will pass by at miles 13.5 and loop back around so you will see them again at mile 21.5. We will have cheer equipment, t-shirts and drumming facilitators so you can create some groovy rhythms and support our fundraisers on this incredible challenge. Cheering really does make a difference to our fundraisers and we pride ourselves on being one of the largest and fun cheer squads on the route!A screenshot of the google map showing the cheer spot location

We also have a cheer spot at mile 25 next to Embankment tube station, so you can help the runners along their final stretch to the finish line.

We hope to see you there! If you have any questions, email events@scope.org.uk 

Between London to Paris in 24 hours

You’ve probably already heard about Scope’s cycle event, London to Paris 24, which challenges you to cycle the 280 miles from London to Paris in just 24 hours. Unable to take part in the event because of an injury, Lucy Alliot was determined to cycle part of the 280 mile distance and created her own event – Lucy cycles between London to Paris in 24 hours. Here’s her guest blog looking back at her very unique event.

I completed it. Not quite as expected, but nevertheless I got there in the end with a bit of an added adventure! I departed from London at 11am on Saturday. Despite the rain I had a very smooth run down to Newhaven (including an accidental diversion to Croydon). I took the ferry over to Dieppe and set up my lights on the bike to head out along the dark French roads in the direction of Paris.

Unfortunately at 2.27am (French time), my bike derailleur completely snapped off. Even with an extensive tool kit there was nothing that could be done without a new part. Determined not to give up I assessed the options:

  1.  Borrow the velo I’d seen propped up by La Poste in the previous village, and commit to getting it back at a reasonable time the next day before anyone realised.
  2.  Walk to Paris.
  3. Try to find a bike shop open on a Sunday in France!

Since the French bike was built for a 7 foot man and walking would take 1.5 days, I decided to throw the bike in the car and try to find a repair shop. After a lot of searching we found what seemed to be the only bike shop open in France on a Sunday (Gepetto & Velos, Paris). At 5am we set-up camp outside to wait for it to open. Soon we realised sleep was near impossible so took the opportunity to take a whistle stop tour of the Parisian sites.

When the bike shop finally opened at 10 in the morning I attempted to negotiate with my limited French to have the bike fixed and sussed out the rusty second hand bikes to buy as a back-up. After a bit of a bodge job I was thrilled to be able to walk away with a bike whose wheels turned, despite not being able to cycle in the bottom cog – but it would get me going!

It was time to depart from La Tour Effiel and head back toward the scene of the crime, completing the route backwards, now greeted by a beautiful headwind. Nevertheless the weather was stunning and I could actually see what I was cycling past now. I finally arrived 22 hours later (excluding a few for fixing the bike in Paris!). Not quite the scenic end that I had anticipated, however I took a second attempt at the hill that had originally left my bike broken.

Lucy has received fantastic support from her friends and family, already raising over £1400 for Scope’s work. She wants to thank the very kind support car that stayed awake for 40 hours to help her finish what she had set out to do. Fancy taking part yourself in 2016? You can get your place today.

It’s time to show your brain some love!

Most of us try to look after our bodies, but how many of us consider our brain? That’s the message behind the Disabilities Trust’s new awareness campaign, Show your brain some love. Marketing Manager Charlie Price tells us more.

We launched our Show Your Brain Some Love campaign on 18 May, to coincide with the 2015 Brain Injury Awareness Week. One of our divisions is The Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT), a leading charity for brain injury rehabilitation across the UK, so the idea behind the campaign was to encourage people to take care and understand the importance of protecting your brain.

It is estimated that every year more than one million people in the UK will acquire a head injury and, out of those, 11,000 will suffer a severe brain injury. Only 15 per cent of those people will be able to return to work within five years and about 4,500 will need care for the rest of their lives.

Brain injury research shows that men between the ages of 16 and 30 are at the most risk. We’re hoping that, by spreading awareness, more people will take care and understand this as an important issue.

Birt, the character behind the Give your brain some love campaign

We’ve introduced a colourful character, Birt, to share top tips for keeping your brain healthy. It’s a way of making a serious message eye-catching, and much easier to read. The campaign has even changed my own outlook! The best thing for us has been the positive reactions when Birt was unveiled and all the positive comments on social media. We used the hashtag #LoveBirt specifically for the campaign, so we could easily see and measure the use of Birt on social media.

It’s been great to see how wide-reaching the campaign has become. We didn’t just launch it nationally on our website. We also provided campaign packs for 15 of our brain injury services. And they were able to use them in any of the activities they were doing, whether it was cake-baking or bike marathons. It was great to see how everyone made use of the materials. Then they could also see Birt on our website and social media channels, so the range has been really wide, which is great.

There are a few things everyone can do to look after their brain, like ensuring you wear a helmet, eating a balanced diet, learning more, exercise, keeping positive, and other things. If you visit our website and meet Birt, you can find out more.

Read more tips to show your brain some love and learn more about the campaign on The Disabilities Trust website.

London Marathon proposal…did she say yes?

Guest blog by Pally Chahal. The 2015 London Marathon will be a day 132 Scope runners will look back on for years to come – but Pally’s memory will be even more special.

On Sunday 26th April 2015 I embarked on my fifth London Marathon. However, unlike my previous accomplishments, this marathon was going to be very unique, special and one I will always look back on with fond memories. This marathon I was going to go down on one knee and propose to the love of my life, Pam, in front of thousands of runners and spectators cheering us on.

Training time

I was able to build up to 20.52 miles by late February, which was quite impressive considering I was plagued with calf injures and general life tends to overrule training. My commitment to running and at the same time my family fish and chip shop business is quite high, so I never really got a full day of recovery from long distance runs. However, this training would not be like my previous regimes – this time I was training with an engagement ring in a box in my pocket. Many times it hampered my training due to constant rubbing on my thigh.

Final preparations

Around late March I was running around 45 to 55 miles per week and was quite happy with how the box was sitting in my pocket and its constant bashing against my thigh. All that was needed now was some guidance from Scope, for whom I have raised nearly £8,000 over four London marathons. They are a great bunch of people who are always available to give advice and support for fundraising ideas and will always stay in touch with your marathon training. The last four marathons have always been that little bit easier at the 14.5, 18.5 and 24 mile marks where you can rely on the Scope volunteers to cheer you on. Once I had revealed my idea to the team they did everything to help me make sure I succeeded in meeting up with Pam and my family members to carry out the proposal. They provided me with grandstand passes which is yards away from the finishing line, with Buckingham Palace providing the perfect backdrop to propose to Pam.

The marathon

The conditions were perfect – overcast with a slight drizzle of rain, all of which made for a great day of running and hopefully another personal best – sub three hours 30 minutes was on the cards. One thing I didn’t account for in my training was carrying my mobile phone just to make sure I could stay in touch with Pam at the grandstand. It was going to be interesting to see how the phone sat in my other pocket but I remained positive and channelled my thoughts into proposing and seeing the love of my life yards away from the finishing line. As the race progressed I was really comfortable – my pace and breathing were awesome. Around half way I managed to ring a friend to get some information on my predicted time based on my half marathon completion and it was three hours 13 minutes. During this time I was totally ecstatic and managed to ring Pam to find out she was with family by the grandstand – at this point I could barely contain my excitement and gave a surging roar to the crowd of supporters.

London Marathon CheeringThis seemed like plain sailing; surely it couldn’t be that easy with only eight miles to go. I could visualise myself proposing to Pam and topping it off with a personal best at the finishing line. Little did I know running off too fast during the first half of the marathon would come back to haunt me. I slowly started feeling pain under my foot, a pain I have been overcoming during training. For up to 21 miles I managed to march through the pain. Eventually it became more excruciating and unbearable, causing me to stop and attend to my foot. As the miles remaining decreased so did my energy to fight against the pain. The personal best became a distant memory and I channelled my thoughts into proposing to Pam. The Scope team at the 24.5 mile mark really spurred me on to finish strong. As I approached the last 385 yards they never seemed more beautiful – the constant sound of cheering, clapping and the whole atmosphere made me, and I’m sure the rest of runners, feel like celebrities as we approached the finishing line. However, my job was not finished yet and this young lady who always surprised me was now going to have the surprise of her life.

The proposal

On the right hand side of The Mall, facing the finishing line, I managed to see my brother who pointed out where Pam was standing and I slowly staggered towards her as she cheered my name. I can remember fiddling with my pocket zip and came over to Pam to kiss her whilst managing to unzip the pocket. I slowly stepped away from Pam and somehow plucked up the courage to get on one knee after a brutal 26.2 miles, holding on to a pole for support and said those precious words ‘will you marry me?’. The look on Pam’s face clearly showed she was absolutely shocked and the supporters around her started cheering. Knowing the pain I was in Pam didn’t hesitate and quickly said yes. At this moment I was the happiest man alive – all the pain I went through was well worth it. I managed to pick myself up and come across to Pam for a well-deserved celebration kiss. I collected myself together and gave another roar, clenching my fists in the air and marching to the finishing line as a very happy man.

Engaged life Coverage of the proposal on facebook

I finished in three hours, 43 minutes and 17 seconds; not my best time but very insignificant in terms of what I will remember from this year’s London Marathon. We managed to meet up with everyone at the post-race reception which Scope hold for all their runners and families. Here all the runners got a complimentary professional massage for their efforts and refreshments. The Scope team provided us with glasses of champagne to celebrate our engagement.

When I went to work the next day, customers started to congratulate me on the wedding proposal – they’d seen the video which went viral on Facebook. It was also covered by ITV news and the Daily Mail. I could not have imagined this sort of response at all and to be honest it was all so surreal. I would just like to say a big thank you firstly to the Scope Team for making this special event turn into a very special day for Pam and me, a day we will always cherish. Secondly a big thank you to all my customers, family and friends from Eltham, New Eltham, Sidcup and far out who have always donated generously for a great course and continue to do so. And a special thanks to Pam for making my dreams come true and being my true angel.

Fancy being one of our London Marathon runners next year? Find out more. 

Why the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 2015?

There’s just one week left to get your exclusive free place in our Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 team. You could be cycling the 100 mile route alongside people just like Chris who will be taking part for a third time.

“The Prudential Ride London is a huge and fantastic event that I have taken part from the first year. Finishing in the Mall outside Buckingham palace is an amazing experience that gives you a great feeling of achievement. Starting at the Olympic Park is also brilliant because you are following in the wheel tracks of the 2012 athletes who undertook the same challenging course. The support we get from the local communities is absolutely phenomenal with residents coming to the end of their driveways waving and cheering us on even when the weather was really bad last year!

I have a 16 year old son, Kieren, who has Downs Syndrome, so I’ll be riding for him. He needs support with basic day to day things. We’re lucky in North Wales because we have quite a good support network around us. With him being 16 we’re at the transition stage into college and further on in to adult life – obviously Scope services and their helpline is going to be quite important to us.

I’m hoping my family will be coming down for event day although this will depend on how Kieren is. I hope to bring him down with me and then he can come to the start and be there at the finish – fingers crossed he will be there but if not he will be there in spirit.”

Get your place in our team for free today and be treated to a hero’s reception, a massage in our chill out zone and TLC for your bike! We’re hoping to raise over £314,000 and will have our biggest team ever with over 600 riders taking part for Scope.

“I wasn’t going to do it for charity this year. But I saw Scope is the official charity – it made sense!”

On 2 August more than 15,000 amateur riders will take to the streets of London and Surrey for the third Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 – a 100 mile route on closed roads.

700 of those will be taking part for Scope as part of our official charity of the year team, and one of those is Carl. He knows the route having taken part in 2014 and will be hoping the sun shines, unlike last year!

“Box Hill was okay. But Leigh Hill was shut, we had to go down a diversion because of the weather and that was horrendous. So I’m hoping it’s not like that!” A keen cyclist, he’s often out with his friends testing themselves on the local hills. But there’s nothing quite like event day. “I think if you ride for a charity, the support you get on the day is fantastic. I rode with a couple of friends who weren’t riding for charity and they were completely in awe of us getting cheered on.”

Carl’s reason for taking part is his nephew. Connor was born prematurely and has cerebral palsy. Connor’s mum, Lauren, explained how they initially found out about his diagnosis through their physiotherapist. “One day I got asked to fill in some forms – I asked her for help because it asked what was wrong with him and I didn’t quite know what to say. She just said “well it’s cerebral palsy” but nobody had actually told us that. We were quite shocked. We just thought it was because he was premature, that he would catch up.”

Connor has received fantastic support from the local community. His first play group had a sensory room and it was here that he first walked – a great milestone when the family had been warned he probably wouldn’t walk or talk. “He walked properly. He was nearly three when he started, the same week as his cousin who was one.”

The family first came across Scope when they were looking for help choosing Connor’s secondary school – the local authority recognised that Connor was bright and wanted to place him in a mainstream school. But Lauren and her husband, Kevin, felt that Connor progressed more with one to one support at a specialist school. Connor went on to prove them wrong, attending the local secondary school and gaining good results in his GCSEs. From speaking to Scope and another charity called Network 81, they were able to encourage the school to make the alterations Connor needed for his education, including having his lessons on the ground floor instead of up two flights of stairs. But now, the real work begins – deciding what Connor should do once he leaves college. Connor is keen to get involved in a local community project, the Harwich Mayflower project, where he can socialise and discuss doing an apprenticeship.

Cricket posterWhen Carl saw that Scope were the official charity for this year’s Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100, he felt it made sense to do the full 100 mile route with us. “Technically I didn’t complete it last year. It was 87 miles; it wasn’t 100 (due to the weather) so I felt a bit of a cheat.” He’ll be continuing his training and fundraising over the next few months, including a cricket night called Essex Legends, hosted at a local venue.

There’s still time to be a part of Scope’s Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 team. Get your place today and be treated to a hero’s reception, a massage in our chill out zone and TLC for your bike!

Amazing planet. Amazing continent. Amazing adventure.

Shirley Butler’s trek through the Sumatran Jungle at the age of 78 was meant to be her swansong. That was back in 2013 and Shirley certainly didn’t stay away from the treks for long. Last October she joined a group of Scope supporters trekking through Burma, a country isolated from tourism until very recently.

Myanmar has to be seen to be believed – it is vast, scorching sun, lush crops of fruit and vegetables, tea and coffee plantations, paddy fields and mud! One of the first things I learned in Myanmar was that the life span of a woman is 65 years, so you can imagine how I was treated and spoiled by everyone. The guides referred to me as ‘my grandma’. I just loved it.

A short journey on the train was such an experience, a huge contrast to public transport here in the UK. There were no doors so everyone had to squeeze in and hold on tight. It was such fun, until a torrential rain down pour. The ground turned to red, sticky, claw-like mud. Progress on foot was slow to say the least, especially for me.

We stayed in monasteries which had a very spiritual feel to them. Children training to be monks were seen praying and chanting on the grounds, and were happy to be photographed. The first monastery we stayed at had an amazing alfresco shower built for travellers, which overlooked a view to die for with chickens running around at will. Whilst we were showering, a monk came down to feed the chickens. A short while after another four women went to shower and the same monk went to feed the chickens. The same story was told by another group of travellers a little later on. They were either very well fed chickens  or it was a naughty monk!

All of the visitors were presented with a wristband – a red string with knots representing the support in one’s life, from a Buddha, teacher, family or a visitor. The sleeping arrangement was a large room filled with mattresses side by side- very cosy! Whilst trekking we passed a petrol station which consisted of a shelf holding old whiskey bottles filled with petrol.

After trekking for approximately 70 miles over the first few days, long boats were ready to transport us to see the sights of the floating markets, with all the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  We stopped to see the local crafts, like tobacco being hand rolled by young women, a warehouse extracting silver from the rocks and teak boats being hand made by young skilled men. Along the Inle Lake, we saw fishermen rowing the boats with their legs whilst fishing! All around the lake there houses on stilts and floating gardens.

One highlighting ‘incident’ was when I was lucky enough to have been offered a lift in a vehicle, while the rain was pouring down. The driver could only recite a few words in English which were “Okay. Hi! Out! Five minutes!” He asked me to get out as the motor was beginning to slide sideways into the ditches because of the rain. He told me “we walk for 5 minutes.” One hour and ten minutes later, my boots and I were still trampling along the muddy road.

Getting to Myanmar takes a long time by air but if you want to see all these exotic places then getting from A to B is all part of the challenge. I feel that my boots will be hung up for a while after I manage to get the mud cleaned off. Have I mentioned the mud?

Will there be another trek? Never say never as the saying goes. The fundraising continues regardless, the hill walking beckons and our wonderful planet is there for the taking.

So, has this given you the urge to pick up your boots and get discovering our world? Take a look at the overseas treks we offer.

“I’ve talked about doing a marathon for 10 years, and this was the catalyst”: #100days100stories

Dan and Mel first shared their story in July 2014. We’re republishing it here as part of Scope’s 100 Days, 100 Stories campaign.

Dan and Mel’s son Oliver was recently diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Despite seeing specialists since a very young age, they had a long battle to get Oliver properly diagnosed, including nine months’ worth of tests.

“Oliver was different to other children, and we couldn’t explain why. Because of the issues and complex needs he had, he would do things like lick the radiator and lick the floor where it was cold. You’d go out into an environment where there were loads of other kids, and it was very obvious that he was different but we couldn’t explain why. You’d put him down on the floor and he would only crawl a little bit and then he would start eating the end of the table. We laugh at it now because we understand what he’s doing and why he’s doing it, but until that point we closed ourselves off and saw fewer people. We didn’t really want to go out – not because you’re ashamed, but you couldn’t turn round and say ‘This is why he’s behaving that way’.”

Dan and Mel's son, Oliver
Dan and Mel’s son, Oliver

Mel explained that it was incredibly hard to get a firm diagnosis, “but as soon as we got one and accepted it, it made us even more proud of him. We knew he had problems, but we didn’t ever dream he’d have cerebral palsy. I even remember saying at the beginning [of the road to a diagnosis], ‘Oh yeah, but it’s not like he’s got cerebral palsy or anything, it’s not so major.’ He doesn’t look like what many people would think a child with cerebral palsy looks like. He can walk and he’s got a voice – he’s non-verbal, but he has a voice and he uses it.”

Oliver’s condition left many paediatricians guessing for nine months, with Dan and Mel persisting that his behaviour wasn’t right. “At first we went to a private paediatrician who told us there was nothing wrong with him at all. It was at a young age, but other things had been picked up by health visitors. I contacted the NHS to get him into the system and the paediatrician we got is fantastic.” Putting Oliver through months of tests was difficult on his parents, and particularly Dan. “It was certainly hard putting him through it, watching him being tested. He was getting to the point where he understood enough to know ‘Oh, it’s another person prodding me.’ He would cry as soon as somebody came near him, because even though he didn’t understand everything, he understood that things were going on. That was quite difficult.”

For Mel, she was determined to get a diagnosis. “It was really important to me. Not that it changed anything – I don’t care if he’s got two heads! But it mattered, and I can’t explain why. The moment we had a diagnosis and it had sunk in, for both of us it felt like a weight had been lifted.” Dan goes on to explain that “there were definitely more tears shed in the run-up to the diagnosis than since the diagnosis. We do not feel sorry for ourselves or wish for different things, whereas before we were searching. Now there’s no need to search – it’s difficult to get the diagnosis, but once you do it’s a lot of help.”

Dan with Oliver
Dan with Oliver

Dan and Mel are clearly both very committed to their son, persisting to ensure he has the best support and stimulation possible including occupational therapy and sensory integration. It’s clear they have an eye to the future but it is still very early days for them in terms of Oliver’s diagnosis. Getting Oliver’s diagnosis was the catalyst for Dan to take on a challenge he’d been talking about for 10 years – the London Marathon – an emotional rollercoaster or excitement and apprehension. “I went through a phase where there was lots of pressure – you just think to yourself, ‘I just can’t let anyone down on the day’.”

The couple chose to support Scope as it captured a charity that helped others with similar needs to Oliver. “It goes to helping people, that’s the main thing.” Thanks to the overwhelming response of friends, family, colleagues and strangers, Dan has now raised more than £15,000. As well as support at work, Mel explained that Oliver’s nursery did a mini-marathon. “All the kids walked round the park – they raised £1,200, and that was just amazing. I think it makes a difference that it’s his first time running, and we’ve just had the diagnosis. For us, it’s been wow! We didn’t dream we’d get anywhere near this.”

There are still places available to run this year’s Brighton Marathon for Scope on Sunday, 12 April.

Find out more about the 100 Days, 100 Stories project.