Superstar fundraiser Chris Sharp and his Team Reggie pals raised more than £8,000 for the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) last year. Chris completed the 100 mile Ride London cycling event and also the Virtual London Marathon, setting up Team Reggie along the way. It’s a staggering amount and the DSA are eternally grateful for people like Chis. We caught up with him to find out all about it…
Firstly, tell us about Reggie…
Reggie was born in December 2019. He was actually due on Christmas day but arrived early by C-section due to my wife suffering from pre-eclampsia. It was all surreal the moment Reggie arrived which is all the more reason why I believe he is here to change the world.
I had recently lost my father to a short but very aggressive fight with cancer around the time Reggie was conceived. Luckily one of the last moments he had with us was sharing the good news that we were pregnant, which we kept a secret from anyone else except my father. When Reggie was born, we were still grieving the passing of my dad but knew bringing a child into the world would keep us on our toes and help take our mind off things while we gave 100% focus on being the best parents we could, and hopefully making him proud.
The surreal moment came when my wife went under the knife in the operating theatre and in the background Christmas music was playing on a radio. Georgie – not feeling a thing and loving Christmas – turned her head to me and said “Have you heard what’s playing?” It was When a child is born by Johnny Mathis. I remember thinking ‘wow, how weird is that!’ Then as we listened to the lyrics and the words ‘when a child is born’ as if by some miracle, there was a tiny squark from Reggie as he was lifted above the screen so we could take a look at him and find out he was a boy. A child had been born, Reggie had been born and what a happy surreal moment that was.
Soon I got to hold Reggie and this is when I first noticed that he could have Down’s syndrome but I wasn’t sure. Later in recovery, I told Georgie my suspicions and soon after the midwife asked us if we had noticed anything about him and we said we had been just discussing whether he had Down’s syndrome. She then told us that the paediatrician would be coming to discuss this in a while but she didn’t want us to be taken off guard by the news. She was lovely and probably a little relieved. They soon came and gave us the news of their suspicions and Dr Gibson was brilliant at explaining everything to us. After a blood test Reggie was confirmed to have Trisomy 21 a couple of days later.
Back at home and now one year on, it has been a challenging year, not only due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the difficulties we have faced with Reggie’s development and feeding issues, but we have had great support from various NHS departments and we work hard with him which is paying off. He is a wonderful little boy and is doing so well despite his difficulties and has lots of determination. There is a lot of love for Reggie amongst family and friends, especially the running community that we are a part of. People are always asking us to post pictures and videos on social media so they can stay updated on how he is doing as at the minute, we aren’t really able to be around other households.
Reggie being born was exactly what we needed, when we needed it and he is perfect. I really wouldn’t want him any other way. We try to do so much with him and he brings so much love and laughter into the house. Not only that, but he has brought so many people closer together. Just looking down the comments on Facebook from his birthday, it just shows how much people adore him and many people have stated that he brings people together and puts a smile on people’s faces. I hope everyone who has a child with Trisomy 21 feels as lucky as we do.
How did you feel after completing all 26.2 miles of the Virtual London Marathon?
In all honesty it was one of the best moments I’ve ever been a part of. I’m far from an ideal weight for running, and training for the Virtual London Marathon was pretty much non-existent, so I was extremely tired at the end. Just before the end we had one final lap of a cricket field, of which I did running with Reggie in the running buggy. To cross that finish line with Reggie and five of my fellow support runners, to see all the people socially distanced in their groups of six who had all made the effort to come and cheer us on during such difficult times, was a little surreal and overwhelming. Not only that but most people were all wearing t-shirts we had made to raise funds, so it was a sea of Team Reggie everywhere which only added to the emotion.
What kept you going when things got tough?
100% it was all the support that we had already received and was continuing to receive. When I had signed up to take part in the Ride London event earlier in the year with my friend Richard Cooper, we formed Team Reggie to help fundraise for DSA. I never imagined how well received Team Reggie would be. I thought we would raise £1k maybe £1.5k if we really pushed, but we managed to raise £2.5K which was amazing. I thought that was it, job done, it wasn’t easy but we have raised a decent amount which will do a lot of good for others like Reggie. Soon after the event we received a message saying that for our efforts, Card Factory Foundation wanted to match what we had raised. This took our total to £5k and I was in complete awe. This was then the catalyst and motivation to do more. I kind of felt like my efforts weren’t deserving enough so I had to think of something else, hence the marathon which was a suffer fest but in the back of my mind, I just kept thinking about all the support we had received and I couldn’t let anyone down.
You had quite the team running and cheering you on didn’t you?
I never imagined it would turn out the way it did, especially due to COVID-19 and restrictions coming out of lockdown one. I signed up with the aim of justifying what we had already fundraised with the hopes of adding a few more pounds to the total and I planned to just run alone. I was contacted by Chris Field, a friend from my running club who asked if him and his wife could run with me and share my JustGiving page to raise money. I of course said yes and then this very quickly grew into something much bigger especially with all the restrictions. But as I am part of a running club which is classed as a team sport, we were able to run in groups of six. There were a few who had signed up to run the Virtual London Marathon so we invited them to join us, then others started showing support in wanting to run with us so in the end we decided that as we all run at different paces and others want to join us, we had to do something different but with safety in mind. We ended up with four core runners who would each run with a maximum of five support runners in their group. The marathon was split into four separate legs. Each leg then being a manageable chunk with a short rest before the next. At each leg stop, the support runners would leave and up to five more support runners would jump on with the core runner. This had to be done through a booking system similar to what we used for training nights so that we had all track and trace information and on the day, we actually ended up with around fifty different people taking part. I had some Team Reggie technical t-shirts made which many purchased, and all profits went straight into the fundraising pot along with a raffle and coffee/cake stall of which people gave up their time to organise and bake. The day was a great success and everyone socially distanced keeping to groups no bigger than six which was our biggest concern for the day. This took our total to then just over £7k raised in total. We have since had some more donations bringing the total raised by Team Reggie to more than £8k! But best of all, it brought people together at a time when people needed it and seeing everyone all come together for one common goal was wonderful to see and be a part of.
Why did you decide to raise money for the DSA?
I decided to raise money for the DSA after Reggie was born and diagnosed as having Trisomy 21. We were given information packs from the DSA which proved very useful in learning what this meant to us and Reggie. It’s really weird, I knew from the moment Reggie was born that he would change the world, even if it was just in a small way. Every day I would find myself staring at him thinking how lucky I was to have him in our lives. I took the news of his condition without batting an eyelid, but I soon got to thinking that others who may not find it as easy to come to terms with. I also thought about what this means for Reggie as he grows up and what help he may need. I also thought about others that have many more difficulties with the condition and how much support they and their families may need. I shared all these thoughts with my friend Richard and we came to the conclusion that we should do something that would help everyone in the long run, even if it’s just a tiny bit of the bigger picture, every little helps.
How has the DSA helped you and your family?
Directly I would say the booklets were a great start to help understand things from the very beginning, not only that, but just knowing there is an organisation out there to give advice is a godsend. We use the website often to get answers to questions we have, and know that there is always support and advice there if we ever need it. There is lots of information too that I find useful and, it’s nice to know we can tell people to look up the website if they want to know more about Down’s syndrome than we can’t answer.
Indirectly, I can see lots of things are always happening in the background supporting people with Down’s syndrome, whether it be from helping community support groups, to DSActive and WorkFit. It puts my mind at ease that there is an organisation that is fighting for the rights of people who have Down’s Syndrome and helping them from birth and into adulthood and independence. It’s like a guardian angel for our son.
How proud did you feel to be running for the DSA?
Due to more fundraising efforts, I actually wore the Team Reggie t-shirt we had made which was really well received and we managed to sell lots making lots more money for DSA in the process. I wore the DSA vest whilst I was training though which helped encourage people to jump on the Team Reggie fundraising journey. I wore it with pride in the few miles training I did.
You couldn’t run as planned in London, but where did you run?
We ended up splitting the marathon into four legs which were all a little over 10km. We used Ackworth Cricket Club as our base where each leg started and finished allowing for refreshments and support runners to change over. Because of this the whole marathon was in or around the Ackworth area which is a large village in the Wakefield district of West Yorkshire. The routes had some wonderful views which I like to run around often including the grounds of Nostell Priory, which is a National Trust property.
You cycled 100 miles in the Ride London event for the DSA earlier in the year too! How was that?
The 100 mile bike ride was also done on virtually no training but the day was brilliant. We got really lucky with the weather as it was overcast but dry all day. We did the first quarter with other support riders helping us settle into a sensible pace so we didn’t get carried away early on and this kept us on the straight and narrow. I was joined by my friend Richard Cooper and Donna Bailey who were great to ride with. We had lots of laughs along the way and some questionable conversations which helped keep the mood a happy humorous one for the whole ride. Towards the end when we were all starting to feel tired, something very strange happened as we became very giddy and silly which at that point for me personally, helped take my mind off the pain of being sat on a hard bike seat all day and having sore legs.The route was great. We headed east from my hometown of Featherstone over to Goole then south until we reached the south side of the Humber. We then continued east until we reached the Humber Bridge. We headed over the Humber Bridge and tracked north towards Beverly before then heading east to our final destination just south of Bridlington on the coast. At the end we had our families waiting for us with banners and balloons, not forgetting the beer too!
Thank you so much for all the funds you have raised for the DSA Team Reggie! We couldn’t do what we do without people like you!
You can sponsor Team Reggie here
Find out about events and how you can fundraise for the DSA here