40 Members Of Bristol Sands Tackle Bristol 10K

Great Comeback 3

Every runner has a story, it's time to start yours. Enter the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k at: Greatrun.org/Bristol10k

A team of forty bereaved parents, friends, family and colleagues will take on the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k this May in support of neonatal death charity Sands, which is celebrating its 40th Anniversary.

Bristol Sands are a group that is mostly made up of bereaved parents who volunteer for the charity and provide face to face support for anyone who has been affected by the loss of a baby across the region.

The charity has established bereavement suites at both Southmead Hospital and St Michael's Hospice and organise remembrance events where parents can come together to remember their babies.

Now to mark Sands' 40th Anniversary, a group of parents have decided to come together at the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k on Sunday 13 May to fundraise for the charity to provide a memorial for babies who are buried in Arnos Vale Cemetery in an unmarked grave.

Among them are Reg and Charlotte Coombs, from Ashton in Bristol whose daughter Elizabeth was born sleeping in 2012.

Reg, who is the charity's committee member, said: “They were the words that would change our lives forever “We're very sorry but we can't find your baby's heartbeat”.

“Spoken so calmly in a soft and gentle voice, those words are ones that will never leave us. Your head spins, your body spasms, your entire physical self seems to melt into the floor. Time literally stands still.

“This was our reality in early March 2012. Our beautiful first child, our daughter Elizabeth, was born sleeping at St. Michael's Hospital in Bristol. Our lives changed forever. Not just ours, but our entire family.

“The seconds, minutes, hours that followed were surreal. We were fortunate enough to have been able to spend a couple of days in St. Michael's “Lavender Suite” for bereaved parents, set up and maintained by Bristol Sands.

“We could spend precious time together as a family with our beautiful daughter; her grandparents, uncles and aunties could visit too, a chance to make memories that would have to last a lifetime.

“During our time at St. Michael's we'd been made aware of Bristol Sands. A charity we'd never heard of, that helped support people, people like us, people that had also been through what we had been through – people who, crucially, understood.

“We went along to a support meeting. We shared our story. We listened to everyone else's stories. We understood. They understood. For that few hours we were safe. Safe to talk. Safe to share. Safe to express ourselves. Our love. Our daughter. Our absolute devastation.

“I've taken part in the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k and raised money for Bristol Sands for the last few years. Having never really taken to running previously, supporting a charity so personal to me really has inspired me to take up running and take part in events like this.”

Charlotte, who is now Chair of Bristol Sands, added: "Our 40th anniversary is a milestone that we felt deserved to be recognised and we wanted to use it to fundraise for a project that really focuses on the lack of bereavement care that was around prior to Sands creation.

“We are working together with Arnos Vale Cemetery to create a fitting memorial for the babies buried there who sadly currently lie in an unmarked grave.

“With babies being buried at the cemetery up until the 1970's, Arnos Vale still regularly receive enquiries from parents trying to find their babies' resting place and we'd like to be able to give these parents a more comforting place to come and remember their baby.

“We decided to put together a team for the 10k and are really hoping to reach 40 fundraisers, to reflect our 40th anniversary.”

The team will join 13,000 others who will conquer a 10k challenge this spring at the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k. Runners at the event will start good and finish greater as they take on a scenic course through the awe-inspiring surroundings of Bristol city.

Abbie Wilford, from Portishead, is also taking on the challenge after the loss of her third child Danny when he was just a day old. She found that running helped her to get out of a dark place following her son's passing.

She said: “My husband John and I came to Bristol Sands following the loss our son Danny, in February 2012. “He died unexpectedly at a day old due to an undetected heart condition. We found Bristol Sands to be a safe place to share our grief with others who simply understood that not only had we lost our much wanted and much-loved baby but that our family would always be missing someone and how painful those missed milestones are.

“We were blessed enough to go on and have our rainbow baby, another son Freddie, in February 2013 but he will never replace Danny.

"I never expected to catch the running bug but I have and it is one of the many things I have to thank Danny for. Each step I take is because of and for Danny. “In 2015 I ran my first event, the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k, alongside my husband and we are back again this year, doing something positive in memory of our son alongside other members of Bristol Sands.

“I am now a Bristol Sands befriender and am on the committee, hopefully helping to ease the journey too many others find themselves on following a loss. Our babies were here, they were real, they matter and this event is one way in which we will remember them, always.”

Kate Turton, from Winterbourne in Bristol, who is running her first-ever 10k at the event added: “Monty was our middle child – our much-loved, much-wanted son. He was stillborn five years ago and remains part of our family even though he is no longer with us.

“We talk about him often and our two daughters make him a cake every year on his birthday. Since Monty was born, we've been supported by Bristol Sands, through the monthly support group and pregnant again meetings.

“I only started running six months ago and I've never run 10km so I'm a bit nervous about the event. I don't have a finish time in mind, I just want to complete the course!”

To support the team's fundraising at the event, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/Sands-Bristol-AVP

Every runner has a story, it's time to start yours. Enter the Simplyhealth Great Bristol 10k at: Greatrun.org/Bristol10k