Monday, 20 May 2024
Monday, 20 May 2024

Celebrating Smile Train’s incredible Marathoners

Celebrating Smile Train's incredible MarathonersRECENTLY, an incredible 55 runners turned their miles into smiles and took on the iconic London Marathon, in aid of Smile Train, the world’s largest cleft charity. Their dedication and commitment to their training and fundraising over the last few months has been truly inspirational, and we’re so thankful for their support, collectively raising £230,000 which will make an enormous difference to the lives of those born with a cleft around the world. 

There were some brilliant stories to tell amongst our wonderful runners, but for this month’s column, we wanted to highlight the stories of three of our UK fundraisers who were each inspired to take on the gruelling challenge after having a baby born with a cleft.

They have each seen first-hand the impact that being born with a cleft has on a child’s life – as well as just how valuable the treatment and support we receive on the NHS is – which is something that children born with cleft around the world aren’t lucky enough to have access to.

We caught up with Terry, Rebecca, and Kelly ahead of the big day to find out more about their inspiration for running for Smile Train.

Terry Bird – The ‘Never Again’ marathon

It was totally unexpected when Terry’s son, Josh, was born with a bilateral cleft lip in 2010. Josh’s cleft lip had not been picked up during pre-natal scans, so the day he was born was difficult.

At just 16 weeks old, Josh had surgery to heal his lip, and aged 11, he underwent another surgery which involved having a bone graft from his hip to his gum.

So, in a bid to give back, as well as do his bit to ensure children born with a cleft around the world have access to the same level of care that Josh did, Terry has undertaken numerous challenges over the years, raising in excess of £20,000 for cleft-related charities.

Having completed five marathons over the years, he is no stranger to the incredible feat – but having had a nine-year gap since his last marathon, he knows it’s going to hurt.

Terry said:

“After turning 50 in 2023, I am out to prove that I still have a marathon in me and want to continue to give back in support of helping other families affected by cleft. So Smile Train seems like the perfect charity to run for.”

Rebecca Cook – ‘It is his bravery and encouragement that has inspired me to run the London Marathon for Smile Train’

When Rebecca attended her 20-week scan, she was told her son George was going to be born with a cleft.

She recalled:

“At first, it was a daunting position to be in, however, as a family, we quickly came to realise how fortunate we are that he’s been able to access outstanding care via an amazing NHS team.”

Rebecca added:

“I truly believe that because of this expert treatment, there will be no significant impact on his life and nothing to stop him from achieving all his hopes and dreams, and we would like to make that possible for all children born with clefts around the world.”

Which is why Rebecca feels so passionately about supporting charities like Smile Train.

George will soon be undergoing another surgery to take a bone graft from his hip to heal his gum. Rebecca said:

“The surgery is an intimidating procedure for any kid, but the hardest bit for George is that it will take him away from his passion for playing sports for at least six weeks. George’s bravery and encouragement inspired me to run the London Marathon for Smile Train.”

Kelly Stephens – Turning miles into smiles

13 years ago, Kelly was pregnant with her son, Robert, when they found out he was going to be born with a cleft lip and palate.

She recalled:

“Learning he was going to have surgery, feed differently, and potentially have speech and dental issues, was terrifying and a lot to comprehend.”

But fortunately, thanks to the NHS, the family had brilliant support when Robert arrived.

Kelly had grown up watching her Dad and Uncles running the London Marathon so she had always felt inspired to give it a go herself one day.

She said:

“When I knew I wanted to raise money for a charity in support of Robert, I knew I had to make it happen.”

When Kelly started thinking about who to raise money for, it was a no-brainer. She said:

“I had always known about Smile Train from the adverts on TV, but it was our experience that made me want to raise money for Smile Train. Imagine if we never had all that treatment and support Robert has had, how different life would be for him?!. He is thankfully doing really well and is thriving in life.”

If these stories have inspired you to find out more about how to turn your miles into smiles, please visit:


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