MORE than 150 big-hearted Highlanders are lacing up their running shoes in a fundraising effort to try to help a two year old Inverness boy be able to walk one day.
Seasoned runners, total beginners and tiny tots are all taking part in the Baxter’s Loch Ness Festival of Running in September to raise money for specialist therapies for Sam Douglas, who was born with severe developmental delays.
The effort is being spearheaded by Sam’s godmother Jenni Donnelly, and was sparked after a family friend, Lynda Fraser, spotted a therapist in London who it is hoped can help the youngster take his first steps.
Jenni said: “The treatment works by helping little ones use their own centre of gravity to improve their balance, be able to sit and stand and as they develop many children are, in time, able to walk. This is our dream for Sam.”
Family and friends have been able to fund one course of therapy which saw a huge progression for Sam, who also suffers from epilepsy.
But the treatment is not available on the NHS and is expensive, costing around £600 for a week’s course.
Sam’s parents Stephanie and Kris carry out their own intensive therapy at home. There have already been noteable improvements in Sam’s muscle tone.
It is hoped with regular sessions the youngster will one day be able to walk and gain independence.
He was born following a routine pregnancy but it was discovered at birth that his brain had not fully developed. The family still have no medical explanation for the cause of Sam’s condition.
Jenni said: “The therapy is tough for Sam but is already making a real difference. Steph and Kris weren’t sure about asking people to help, but if anyone deserves help we think it is them.
“Since Sam was born they have raised more than £25,000 for the Special Care Baby Unit at Raigmore Hospital and children’s epilepsy charities - for other families and children. They really are an amazing couple who just want the best for their boy.”
Sam’s mum Stephanie said: “We never imagined so many people would be so kind as to help us try to do the very best we can for Sam.
“In our darkest days it has been so uplifting to know that people care. Since the first round of therapy we have seen big improvements in him and it’s just wonderful to have the chance to keep on helping him.
“It’s impossible to explain how it feels to see your little one struggling and working so hard to do things most people just take for granted. The therapies are life-changing and we just couldn’t do it on our own finances. He’s been through so much already in his life but he never stops smiling. We just can’t thank people enough.”
Sam’s Auntie Nicola McAlley, who is the Highlands and Islands reporter for STV News, is also running her first 10k for him. She said: “I describe myself as an avid non-runner but I would do anything I can to try to help Sam.
“He is so precious to us all and it has been amazing to see his progress. We know that he can achieve so much and we have been blown away by the support for him and even the kindness of strangers.
Malcom Sutherland, race director of the Baxters Loch Ness Marathon and Festival of Running, said: “Over the years, runners have raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for charities, some national organisations like our main charity partner Macmillan Cancer Support, and others for local causes like Step Up For Sam.
To donate to Sam’s Fund go online: www.gofundme.com/stepupforsam.
To enter the Loch Ness Marathon go to: www.lochnessmarathon.com