A GRANDFATHER will take part in the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run to say thank you to the North West Air Ambulance charity.

Graham Calder will lace up his trainers for the half marathon distance in Manchester city centre on Sunday, 20 May – and has already shed more than 5st after starting training.

The 49-year-old from Walsall will raise money for the North West Air Ambulance Charity, who airlifted his 17-month-old grandson Luca to hospital when he suffered a nasty scald in an accident with boiling water in October last year.

Graham was on his way back from visiting his daughter Grace, wife of footballer Jamille Matt, who plays for Grimsby Town on loan from Blackpool, when he heard the news that his grandson had had an accident.

He recalled: “I immediately turned the car around and headed back to be with them.

“It was heartbreaking to hear what had happened. The only relief I felt was hearing how quickly Luca was in safe hands with the North West Air Ambulance paramedics, who were with him within minutes of the accident.

“Grace travelled with Luca in the helicopter to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where the paramedics handed him over to the wonderful care of the hospital’s nurses and doctors.

“From start to finish, the care and professionalism of everyone who was there for Luca was outstanding, and I’m so grateful to the air ambulance pilot and paramedics who helped him that day.”

Thankfully, Luca did not suffer any serious injuries and is now recovering well, but the episode empowered Graham to do something for a charity which relies solely on fundraising and donations, receiving no day to day government or National Lottery funding.

He said: “I want to give back to the charity and crew who were there for my 17-month old grandson when he needed them most.

“Knowing how crucial the service was to my grandson that day motivated me to do something – anything – to say thank you. I’d taken up running a few months before to improve my health, so when I saw that I could raise money for the charity by taking on the Great Manchester Run’s half marathon, it made perfect sense to get involved.”

Linda de Sá, Challenge Events Officer at the North West Air Ambulance Charity, said: “We were thrilled to hear Luca has recovered well, and that his granddad was so inspired by our air ambulance crew.

“Graham’s commitment to training has been incredible, and he’s well on the way to smashing his fundraising and running goals. Our service really relies on people like Graham, who do amazing things to give back to the crew who have been there for so many people in the North West.

“Every year, we’re blown away by the dedication of Team NWAA. It grows every year and we’re always looking for new heroes to join.”

Graham had been a decent athlete in his youth, but his sporting efforts were put on the backburner as work and life became his priority.

However, he is now seeing massive improvements in his fitness as he pounds the pavements in preparation for the event day.

He said: “I’ve actually lost over 5st so far. I’m already comfortably running 10K, and as we edge closer to the big day, I’m ready to keep pushing past the milestones to reach the finish line.

“As part of my training, I’ve been running every Monday with my local running group. I’d really recommend group runs to people who want to take up the sport. The tips on the Great Run website have also been invaluable in making sure my training is on schedule.

“Running a half marathon is my way to say thank you for all the charity has done for Luca.”

To sign up for the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run half marathon or 10K, click here

To donate to Graham’s fundraising campaign, click here