Shropshire Star

Supporters complete gruelling challenge for girl with terminal illness

Participants in Cambridgeshire ran four miles every four hours for a total of 48 hours in support of Caitlin Passey, who has juvenile Batten disease.

Group of runners dressed in red T-shirts standing together

A 10-year-old with a terminal illness said she felt “emotional” and like a celebrity after locals across Cambridgeshire completed a gruelling endurance challenge to support her.

Caitlin Passey was diagnosed with juvenile Batten disease in October 2021 – an inherited disorder which affects her nervous system, brain and eyesight, and means she often uses a white cane if she goes outside.

Since then, her family have been trying to adapt their home in Over, Cambridgeshire, to provide a “safe haven” for their daughter.

Girl standing with her thumbs up
Caitlin Passey said she felt like a celebrity after locals took on a running challenge to support her (Nick Passey/PA)

Some 38 locals, including Caitlin’s father Nick, tackled the David Goggins 4x4x48 challenge from Friday to Sunday, which saw them run four miles every four hours for a total of 48 hours around the neighbouring village, Willingham, to help the family edge closer to their goal.

Kevin Brittain, an entrepreneur and friend of Mr Passey who also took on the feat, previously told the PA news agency the David Goggins 4X4X48 challenge takes participants “to the absolute brink”.

Mr Passey, 40, who works in procurement, told PA: “We had 38 people start and 38 people finish, which was phenomenal.

“I don’t think there was a single run, even when they happened at 2am, where there wasn’t at least one person cheering us on.

“Everyone was sharing their food, medical supplies, painkillers – it was literally like a family of 38 of us for the weekend and I know we’ll all be friends for life.”

Group of runners standing together
Nick Passey said he was overwhelmed by the support for the challenge (Nick Passey/PA)

Mr Passey injured a calf muscle during the first run, but said he was not short of people checking in to make sure he was OK and a physiotherapist was on hand to ensure he and fellow runners were tended to throughout.

He was the last runner across the line on Sunday, at around 7am, and said he had to “choke back tears” as he was overwhelmed by the support from locals, with one participant making time for the challenge while also teaching in a school.

“Someone’s child wanted to run with us and ran in front of me and nearly tripped me up, but it was because the children were so keen to play their part” he added.

Caitlin’s seven-year-old brother Joseph and his football team also showed their support for the cause by running 16 400m laps of a local sports field.

Group of men standing in a line
Participants Nick Passey, Tristan Sutton and Stu Riddle (Nick Passey/PA)

Caitlin was cheering for the runners at various points throughout and thanked each participant by giving them a medal.

“Caitlin got really overwhelmed at the start, but had a beaming smile on her face when she was handing out the medals,” Mr Passey said.

“She said she loved that everyone was doing the event for her, but she wishes they didn’t have to, but I explained it is because people care about her so much.

“She was getting emotional just by the thought of what people were doing for her and she thanked every individual runner face to face and when everyone started leaving, she grabbed my shoulder and said she feels like a celebrity as everyone wanted to take a photo with her.”

There were also lots of laughs shared by those in attendance as Mr Passey – a keen Tottenham Hotspur supporter – had to wear football shirts for rival teams at various points because family members and friends donated money for him to do so.

Girl on monkey bars being held up by a man
Caitlin with her father Nick (Nick Passey/PA)

“One of the runners donated £50 to the event to make me run a four-mile lap in an Arsenal shirt and then one of my friends donated the Arsenal shirt for me to wear,” he said.

“The lap I was running when I was wearing the Arsenal shirt was the hottest and the top is not breathable at all, so I was sweating and feeling physically ill and everyone would think I was gagging because I was wearing this shirt.

“And then I had to do another run in a Liverpool shirt because my mum is a Liverpool fan and she donated £50.”

Other participants also had to wear rival football tops and one even wore a multi-coloured tutu.

Man with his thumb up holding a medal
Mr Passey said the family can now finish the building work at their home, thanks to donations (Nick Passey/PA)

Mr Passey hoped to raise £10,000 through the feat, but the target has now exceeded £25,000.

“The amount of money raised is phenomenal and means we’ll be able to finish all the work we need to for the house so we can stop living in a building site,” he said.

The family plan on transforming their living room into a space filled with mobility equipment for Caitlin, as well as installing a handrail at the front entrance and a gate at the top of the staircase, so she can feel safe walking around her home.

The Collection Pot for the challenge can be found here:

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