Despite the heaviest rain in three months, the 200 runners who signed up for TEAMJESS turned out on the embankment in Peterborough on Sunday, 13 October to take part in the Perkins Great Eastern Run.
TEAMJESS is the charitable endeavour set up to help four-year-old Jessica Howard, who lives in Helpston and suffers from cerebral palsy. Nerves damage in her spine has resulted in spasticity, greatly limiting normal movement in her arms and legs and leaving her unable to walk. Jess’s underlying condition will not improve over time, but there is an operation that she could have either here in the UK or in the US. Both require considerable expense: in the UK the operation would be free but would require thousands of pounds’ worth of follow-up physiotherapy, whilst an operation in the US would see the need for funds to cover both the physio and the operation.
With the incredible momentum gained over the last nine months, numbers for the run continued to increase right up until the night before. The 200th runner was Wendy Turner, who travelled in from Toronto, Canada, to run with her family, including David and Alexa Hall from Mill View, Helpston.
Wendy made the half-marathon team 50-strong, a fantastic achievement as the previous largest team was 40 runners. There were a few seasoned half-marathon runners as well as many first-timers, including Jess’s mum Hayley who finished quicker than her 2h30m target, and who said, ‘As a family we have been overwhelmed by the support shown to our little girl. To have so many people come together in such horrendous weather but still keep a smile on their faces was quite incredible – we are choked by the support’. Other team members included James Taylor from Lichfield, John-Paul Hamilton and Sam Hemmings up from London, plus Kate Hurl from Bedford.
The Fun Run team had an amazing turnout of children from Helpston School and the surrounding areas. Seventy-eight of the 150 runners were children, with the youngest being Hugo Grant at two years old. Jess ensured a full Howard family affair, completing it with her sister Eva and her two grandmas, one of whom was dressed as a clown for the occasion.
In total, over 1,600 people ran in the fun run, with TEAMJESS accounting for nearly 10% of them. The sea of royal blue shirts on the day was quite emotional for many taking part. ‘The incredible support shown around the course from the people of Peterborough was quite amazing,’ said one of the runners. ‘All we could hear was “COME ON TEAMJESS!”.’
Many personal bests were beaten on the day, with Barry Webb being the first in, in a time of 1h28m26sec in 275th place. Commitment to the cause was underlined by one runner beating his personal best time at 1h47m, before receiving the attentions of St John Ambulance for exhaustion. We’re glad to report a full recovery for William Burgess!
Jess has had her referral to Bristol as the first step towards her operation. If the medical team there decide that Jess is a good candidate she will be invited back for a full assessment, which will determine the timescales and location of the operation.
As the race started on Sunday, 13 October, the fund total stood at £28,348, a magnificent achievement by all those involved. ‘We still have a lot of sponsor forms to get in from the runners,’ said Ali Peat, one of the organisers. ‘We are confident that we will achieve this life-changing sum of money.’
The Team fund total has been boosted in recent weeks by a huge number of donations from individuals and companies. William Burgess and David Frost of ProduceWorld, who ran in the half-marathon, have raised over £6,000 between them. Equalling their drive and determination have been the children from the village. Izzy, Hamish and Elspeth Robertson set up a stall at the end of their drive and sold their old bikes and scooters, making over £38 to add to their family tally.
Tim Thompson of Hegartys Solicitors, the main TEAMJESS sponsor, said, ‘I cannot believe the incredible support that this has gained. We are privileged to be part of it.’ Hegartys came on board back in February as the front-of-shirt sponsor, giving the team a huge boost. They were joined by PC Howard, Palletways and CDL to ensure that all the costs of shirts, website and printing were covered, guaranteeing every pound raised by the runners went directly to Jess’s fund and not towards admin activities.
TEAMJESS at the Great Eastern Run in 2013 will live long in the memory of the village of Helpston. The fund total is yet to be calculated, but all the details of this incredible community team can be seen on the website.