Millom dad inspired to tackle gruelling marathon in honour of daughter with Down's Syndrome

31 January 2017 7:04PM

A BRAVE dad has signed up for one of the toughest running challenges in the country after being inspired to raise money for charity by his daughter who has Down's Syndrome.

Simon Donnelly, of Wellington Street, Millom, had always dreamt of tackling the London Marathon but never had a strong enough reason to compete until his "special" little girl Willow entered the world in December 2015.

The one-year-old, who was born three weeks early, has Down's Syndrome and suffered from pneumonia and jaundice shortly after her birth.

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She is so special. Every day she does something different to surprise us

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Willow also had to be fed through a tube which caused a great deal of distress with Mr Donnelly noting that it was "hard to watch" her in hospital because she was so young.

However, the 36-year-old supermarket worker insists that he wouldn't change his pride and joy one bit as he became determined to complete the 26.2 mile race in honour of her.

Mr Donnelly said: "She is so special. Every day she does something different to surprise us.

"She is learning all the time and having already had two lads it was nice to have a little girl. I couldn't have asked for anything more.

"People have asked us about her Down's Syndrome but that does not define who she is.

"To us, she is just Willow and is no different. If I could go back I would not make her any different - it makes no difference to us.

"She is always laughing, giggling or smiling at something and everyone in the community knows who she is."

After missing out on the chance to run for a charity that raises funds for children with Down's Syndrome, Mr Donnelly eventually chose to run for Get Kids Going – a charity that gives disabled youngsters the chance to take part in sport.

Mr Donnelly, who will complete the race with his friend and colleague, Stephen Penellum, stepped down from his role as a manager at Tesco to spend more time looking after Willow.

He said: "Looking after Willow is a full time job. It's a massive commitment. She could have to stay with us forever. She might not be capable of living on her own and we won't know until she gets older how she is going to develop.

"You don't realise how much more effort it takes to look after a child with a disability and you do take it for granted."

As well as fundraising, Mr Donnelly, who used to be a soldier, wants to get himself in tip-top condition for April 23.

After starting a new diet and exercise regime on New Year's Day he is keen to shed the pounds prior to the big day.

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He added: "I've already lost one stone and two pounds and I plan to lose a few more so that I'm between 14 and 15 stone come April.

"I'm aiming to finish the race in five or six hours. I certainly won't be chasing Mo Farah to the finish line."

As an act of generosity, Tesco have agreed to donate £3,800 towards each runner's cause which covers their entry fees for the London Marathon.

You can donate to Mr Donnelly and Mr Penellum's cause click here.

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