Great North Run medal will lie on grave of Sunderland teenager

Heather Baker

Heather Baker

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FATE will help an aunt lay an extra tribute at the graveside of a teenager after she completed a fund-raiser they should have done together.

Heather Baker, from Roker, had pledged to one day finish the Great North Run with her aunt Lindsay Whitfield after watching from the sidelines as she received treatment for acute lymphatic lymphoma, a form of leukaemia.

TEAM EFFORT: Gareth Bowen, John Bowen, Lindsay Whitfield and Graeme Whitfield with Evie Bowen, Millie Whitfield and Lucy Whitfield.

TEAM EFFORT: Gareth Bowen, John Bowen, Lindsay Whitfield and Graeme Whitfield with Evie Bowen, Millie Whitfield and Lucy Whitfield.

But the 16-year-old died in 2009, leaving her family devastated but determined to help others who faced a fight against the disease.

On Sunday – the day that Heather would have been well enough to take part in the run after recovering from her treatment – her 34-year-old aunt, uncle Graeme Whitfield, 36, brothers John, 37, and Gareth Bowen, 35, finished the course in her memory.

They also raised cash for the Toma Fund.

Their feat followed the Great North Mini Run, which saw John’s daughter Evie, five, a pupil at Ropery Walk Primary in Seaham, and the Whitfields’ daughters Millie, seven, and Lucy, four, took part in the race.

RUNNING STARS: Lucy Whitfield, Millie Whitfield and Evie Bowen.

RUNNING STARS: Lucy Whitfield, Millie Whitfield and Evie Bowen.

Between them, the team have raised more than £1,000 and are still collecting cash.

When Lindsay opened the goodie bag handed to runners after crossing the finishing line, she found two medals inside instead of one.

She now plans to take the extra one to the spot in the cemetery where Heather, a former Monkwearmouth School pupil, is laid to rest.

Lindsay, who lives with her family in Roker and works for the Department for Work and Pensions, said: “The thing which really kept me going was the names and pictures on people’s backs saying who they were doing it for, and I had Heather on mine.

“Afterwards, I said I would never do it again, but I’m already starting to think I will.

“The children loved their race and have also said they want to do it next year.”

The runners were also cheered on by Victoria Barnes, 34, a maths teacher who works across Sunderland and is Evie’s mum and John’s partner.

She added: “What a wonderful two days raising money for such a fantastic charity and remembering such special people who are no longer with us.

“To now see the children take part is even more special.”

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham