An amazing team of 50 family, friends and teachers from across Surrey, Sussex and Ireland came together this October to take on the Beachy Head Marathon in memory of five-year-old Grace.
The group, who are called their run ‘Race for Grace’, aged from 18 – 60, decided to take on one of the biggest off-road marathons in the UK to raise money for Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Neuroblastoma UK, who both cared for and supported Grace and her family.
Grace was two years old when she was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer, in 2017. She needed intensive care treatment immediately including chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy to fight the cancer and lived a normal, happy life for nearly two years. But in May 2019, a bruise appeared near her eye and began to get bigger. Her parents Catriona and Simon knew that Grace’s cancer had returned. They made the unimaginably difficult decision to not continue with any more harsh treatment, to give Grace the best quality of life whilst they could. Grace received end-of-life care at our Guildford hospice, Christopher’s. Grace sadly died in September 2019 at just five years old.
The Race for Grace team, included Grace’s family in Ireland and Sussex, as well as parents and teachers from Grace’s school in Leatherhead, and for most of the team it was their first ever marathon.
Grace’s mum and team member Catriona said, “Grace was an amazing daughter and the life and soul of our home. She was a beautiful, fun loving and cheeky little girl who was sadly taken away from us after a long fight with neuroblastoma, an aggressive childhood cancer. Running Beachy Head Marathon had given me a goal to focus on over the next few months, and training with all these amazing friends and family helped me get through each day. All of these women (and some men!) are so glad to be part of something special to remember Grace. We’ve all become really good friends and it’s amazing to see everyone giving up their time to raise money and raise awareness of such a cruel disease.
Catriona continued, “As Grace’s family, we wish to reciprocate the support that we received by fundraising for Neuroblastoma UK and Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, two charities who urgently need our help right now. We can’t stop thinking about the other children who are going through what our Grace experienced – we really want to help Neuroblastoma UK fund more important research to make these treatments kinder and more effective. You don’t really realise what hospices actually do until you’re there, but everyone at Christopher’s, Shooting Star Children’s Hospices Guildford hospice, was so kind and caring throughout Grace’s stay so this is our way of saying thank you.”
The team had been really innovative with their training efforts during lockdown, including virtual training sessions via Zoom, squat and stair challenges and a virtual relay race. The local community even chalked messages of support on roads around their training routes!
The group had been charting their training efforts on social media and through a blog where one of the team, Lorraine, explained how she felt during the last section of the Beachy Head marathon, which is described as ‘beautiful but brutal’.
Lorraine said, “The last leg was upon us and I was really having to dig deep whilst trying to help keep spirits up within our group. Everyone struggling in their own way to battle the wind and the seven sisters! A glimmer of sun out on the English Channel and a gust of wind behind us for the first time are moments I won’t forget as we all felt Grace’s presence with us.”
After 10 months of training together, training apart, via zoom and socially distanced, the triumphant team absolutely smashed their target of £25,000, raising an astounding £44,000 and counting in aid of Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Neuroblastoma UK.
Alexa Dizon, Head of Challenge Events at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices said, “Shooting Star Children’s Hospices aim to make every moment count, supporting families’ during the most unimaginably difficult times. By providing end-of-life care at our hospices, we can give families a chance to make lasting memories, be together and simply say goodbye. It’s amazing fundraisers, like team Race for Grace that make this possible. Team Race for Grace have been so inspiring with the ways they managed to continue their training and take on the marathon throughout this challenging time and everyone at Shooting Star Children’s Hospices is so appreciative for all their efforts and amazing amount raised.
“The pandemic has had an undeniable impact on how we can deliver our vital services and our ability to fundraise. So now more than ever, we’re relying on the generosity of our supporters to ensure we can be there for families, like Grace’s, now and into the future.”