Shannon to go the distance for TinyLife

Shannon Dougherty is running a staggered marathon for TinyLife.
Shannon Dougherty is running a staggered marathon for TinyLife.

A kind-hearted schoolgirl from Larne has laced up her running shoes in aid of premature and vulnerable baby charity TinyLife.

Shannon Dougherty (7) pledged to run a total of 26 miles - the equivalent of a full marathon - in the lead up to her birthday in May.

Shannon with mum Jemma.

Shannon with mum Jemma.

She was inspired to take on the impressive feat in support of family friends Rachel and Steven Henderson, whose youngest children, James and Grace, were born at 28 and 27 weeks.

"We were aware that TinyLife had helped the family the first time around, so Shannon had wanted to do something to help raise money for the charity," explained mum Jemma, a member of East Coast Athletic Club.

"She's already very active and does hockey and gymnastics, and she's done a couple of junior Parkruns."

Shannon, a pupil of The Thompson Primary School in Ballyrobert, will be running two miles a week to complete the staggered marathon before she turns eight.

Her online fundraising page has already seen over £1000 in donations, smashing the original target of £200.

"She's over the moon at how much has been raised," said Jemma, from the Curran Road area of the town.

"I'm very proud of her."

TinyLife Head of Fundraising and Communications, Valerie Cromie added: "We are absolutely thrilled that Shannon has chosen to support TinyLife in this most unusual way; it's an exceptional and creative gesture from someone so young. We could almost refer to it as baby steps towards the marathon!"

"Every day six babies are born too soon. TinyLife are there to provide practical advice, emotional support and to give a helping hand to families who have a baby in neonatal, intensive care, or infants born with a disability. With a dedicated family support team working closely with every neonatal unit across Northern Ireland, TinyLife ensure parents receive optimum support.

"Now in our 30th year, we rely on events and donations to enable us to provide ongoing support to many families from all walks of life and to continue our valuable work in the field of research, providing the key to reduce prematurity for future generations."

TinyLife, formerly NIMBA, is Northern Ireland’s only premature and sick baby charity based in Carryduff.

The charity funds research and provides a wide range of support services for families of premature and sick babies, including a breast pump loan service, hospital based support, home based volunteer support, baby massage, tiny gym, parents support group and baby sensory room service.

To support Shannon's fundraising efforts, visit her JustGiving page.