Dumfries Father of Sick Toddler Set To Tackle Great North Run for Charity

Steven Saunderson, 46, from Dumfries is taking on the Great North Run on Sunday 9 September to support The Sick Children’s Trust, a charity which kept him by his 19-month-old son Murdo’s hospital bedside throughout months of treatment.

Murdo was born with VACTERL association, a rare combination of serious conditions including but not limited to major heart defects, major spinal issues and limb deformities, for which there is no known cause. As a result, Murdo has undergone five lifesaving operations, at hospitals far from his home in Dumfries, Scotland.

The family have spent five months at two specialist hospitals in Newcastle upon Tyne, Freeman Hospital and Royal Victoria Infirmary, where Murdo underwent open heart surgery, and surgeries on his oesophagus and bowels. During this time, Steven and his wife Tracey were supported by The Sick Children’s Trust with free accommodation at Crawford and Scott Houses, just minutes from Murdo’s hospital bedside. Steven, who is aiming to raise £500 for The Sick Children’s Trust, says: 

“The Sick Children’s Trust helped us massively. Having a child in hospital, such a long distance away from home and family support is really difficult. Staying at Crawford and Scott Houses meant that we didn’t have to worry about where to stay. It would have been very difficult financially to have stayed in hotels, especially for our longer hospital visits. It was comforting and reassuring to know that we were just two minutes away from the wards where Murdo was being treated. It also helped having a private space away from the wards, because when you’re far from home and stressed, you need that.”

The Sick Children’s Trust supports families with seriously ill children in hospital with free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation just minutes from their child’s bedside during their treatment. Steven stayed at Crawford House in Newcastle for four months and Scott House for five weeks after Murdo’s heart surgery, which are just two of the charity’s ten ‘Homes from Home’ nationwide. Steven adds:

“The charity made a huge difference to us. I can’t speak highly enough of the House Managers who were extremely helpful in providing good information and practical support. The day after the operation, once Murdo had built his strength up, we were able to bring him into Crawford House. It was really nice to be away from the hospital environment because it was much more comfortable. There also was a play area which Murdo very much enjoyed.”

Steven will be joined by his brother and running partner, Chris Saunderson, who is running to raise money for Save the Children and the Children’s Heart Unit Foundation. The Great North Run is the largest distance they have taken on, and it will be the first time they will be running together. Despite both brothers suffering from arthritis in their knees, Steven is optimistic about training and says:

“Our training pain is nothing compared to what Murdo has been through and he just keeps smiling, which keeps everybody strong. Running the Great North Run is a small way to say thank you to The Sick Children’s Trust.”

Currently, Murdo is back home from his latest operation and is doing well. Steven says:

“He is a very active little boy and loves to walk. It is such a contrast to seeing him in hospital. The operations made a big difference. He’s very bright, and can be cheeky and stubborn, which I think is a good thing.”

Steven will join 50 runners as part of #TeamSCT to raise vital funds for The Sick Children’s Trust’s ‘Homes from Home’. Emily Corney, Regional Fundraising Officer at The Sick Children’s Trust, says:

“I’m thrilled to hear that Murdo is doing well, and that The Sick Children’s Trust was able to help Steven and Tracey when they had to travel over 80 miles for lifesaving treatment.
“As a charity, The Sick Children’s Trust relies entirely donations to provide families with free ‘Home from Home’ accommodation when their child is undergoing specialist hospital treatment, which is why we really appreciate people like Steven choosing to run for us. It costs the charity £30 to support a family for one night, so if Steven can raise £500 it will make a huge difference to many families in need.”

Steven’s fundraising page: