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Santas run for hospice youngsters

For Derby Mum, Ali Furlong, the forthcoming Rainbows Santa Fun Run is more than an annual fundraiser – it is part of a promise she made to her dying son.

William was born in June 2011. Within his first six months of life it became increasingly apparent that the little boy was not developing as he should. Following a severe fit and resulting MRI scan at Derby Royal Hospital William’s condition was diagnosed at seven months old. The little boy had a chromosomal defect and was not expected to live to adulthood.

Ali, 42, says: “We were told William was never going to grow to be an adult – that he would always be like a baby.”

In fact, the youngster began to deteriorate as he became older. He had to be tube fed, his lungs were poor, he was registered blind and he would sometimes have prolonged seizures. And he was often in pain.

“Following the diagnosis it seemed a massive grieving process. I really had expected the hospital to tell me everything would be all right. And there was guilt that I had decided to have another baby when I already had two healthy children,” says Ali.

The constant care required for her little boy took its toll, she says.
“It was hard to accept we needed help, but looking back I was so tired and close to exhaustion.” But, she adds, “over time, we found our own ‘normal’.”

The family, which includes husband Sean, (44), daughters Olivia (11) and Niamh (nine) first visited Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People, based in Loughborough, when William was almost two.

“Rainbows was a breath of fresh air. The care was brilliant and we met other families who had youngsters with similar conditions. It seemed we had found somewhere we belonged. And William seemed more comfortable and settled whenever we were at Rainbows,” she says.

That was the first year Ali and her family had completed the Derby Santa Fun Run, to raise money for the hospice. “We were just so grateful,” she says. In fact, the family has taken part in countless fundraising events over the years, including walks, runs, abseils…

The family initially came to Rainbows for respite care. And William seemed to be more comfortable, particularly when he began to receive palliative care to help ease the pain he suffered fequently.

But shortly before his fourth birthday William’s body began to shut down. “We were able to have a few days at the hospice with him before he died,” says Ali. “And I was able to promise him that I would always make him proud; that I would always remember him.”

It is why, come 10 December, Ali and her family will once more be taking part in the Derby Santa Fun Run, when participants will dress as the jolly man in red and walk, skip, or run the distance around Elvaston Castle. It is also why Ali now works for the charity full-time to help raise funds. It is for William and the many youngsters and their families

Rainbows continues to support when they need it most.

“William was a special child, who changed my life in a very positive way. He will always be with me,” says Ali “And this is part of keeping William with us at Christmas.”

 Sign up for Santa Fun Run and help youngsters like William

The Derby Santa Fun Run takes place at Elvaston Castle at 10.30am on Sunday, 10 December to raise funds for Rainbows hospice.

It’s £20 for adults; £11 for children. Included in the price is a Santa suit, medal and festive gingerbread. To register, call the Rainbows events team on  0800 952 1133 or click here.