Heroes Walk Among Us
When facing tragedy, most people understandably enter survival mode, curl up in the foetal position and wait for life to stop kicking the shit out of them. Losing a child is about as soul-destroying as it gets and anybody who can even get up every day after such trauma, let alone devote their lives to helping others, is a superhero.
Our regular readers know all about Mal Ward’s incredible efforts. Six months after his son John was diagnosed with liver disease, he threw his first event to help children’s hospitals. Sadly, Johnno passed away in 2008 age nine, but his memory lives on in his father’s passion, drive and selfless generosity.
“Johnno would be so proud to know what is being done for the sick kids in Westmead, in his name,” Mr Ward said.
The Forever Johnno Fundraiser has so far raised $250,000. If you want to add to that, the 19th annual event takes place on Friday, May 31 from 7pm at Coogee Bay Hotel Sports Bar. There will be raffles, auctions, special guests, music and food. All proceeds go to The Children’s Hospital, Westmead.
But Mr Ward isn’t the only superhero in Coogee. Sophie Smith, who moved here with her husband Ash in 2000, is about as tough as a human can get.
Sophie’s life changed after giving birth to premature triplets in 2006. Henry was born at 21 weeks and lived for one precious hour. Evan and Jasper were born at 24 weeks and, despite huge efforts to save them, Evan lived for 10 days and Jasper for 58.
The pain Ash and Sophie experienced is unimaginable, yet somehow they found strength to transform their grief into something positive.
“We learned that ours was a tragedy that affects many and we were determined that our little boys’ lives could make a difference,” said Ms Smith.
They decided to run the SMH Half Marathon and raise $20,000 for a Humidicrib for the hospital. Joined by 98 runners, they actually raised $80,000. That’s impressive enough in itself, but their story doesn’t end there.
Since then, over 3,000 people have represented ‘Running For Premature Babies’. So far, they’ve raised $3 million which has funded critical research, provided 45 pieces of lifesaving equipment and directly benefited 5,000 babies.
If you fancy getting involved on Sunday, May 19, Ms Smith still has some spaces left in this year’s team of 500 runners. If you’re not ready to run 21km you can pair up with a mate and run the 11.5/9.5km relay instead. All you need to do is register for the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, choose Running for Premature Babies as your charity and raise $200.
Sophie’s husband Ash passed away from brain cancer in 2016 aged 43, and since then she’s turned Running for Premature Babies into a registered charity and her full time job.
“My vision now is to grow this charity so we can become a national charity creating running communities around the country so we can support hospitals with Neonatal Intensive Care Units Australia wide and give premature babies a better chance of survival,” she told The Beast.
And if that hasn’t already got you sobbing into your breakfast, these two legends even work together when Mr Ward donates his legendary BBQ twice a year for Ms Smith’s half marathon team and Kids Fun Run.
“Having people like Wardy reach out to support me and my cause means the world to me and makes me feel so blessed to live in this wonderful community,” said Ms Smith.
That’s it, I’m off to cry into my cornflakes…