Parents of Charlie and Carter Cookson running to raise awareness of organ donation in sons’ memory

Team Cookson runners Joanne Nicholson, left, and Sarah Cookson.
Team Cookson runners Joanne Nicholson, left, and Sarah Cookson.

A South Tyneside couple who have lost two sons to health tragedies are on their marks and getting set to break down the taboo around child organ donation at a major running event.

Sarah and Chris Cookson are preparing to take part in the Simplyhealth Great North 10k run to highlight to other parents the vital importance of donation in times of heartbreak.

Carter Cookson

Carter Cookson

They say too few mums and dads know their child’s organs can be used to save others – and doctors are often reluctant to raise the issue until the last moments of life.

The South Shields couple insist that many are not always in a fit emotional state to give the go-ahead – a decision they believe some may later regret.

Dance teacher Sarah, 43, and driver Chris, 40, are still coming to terms with the deaths of two-year-old Charlie in October 2013 and baby Carter in January.

But, along with dedicated supporters, they say they are determined to complete in the July 7 race to improve organ donation awareness.

Charlie Cookson.

Charlie Cookson.

Sarah said: “It’s the hardest thing for a parent to do, to say goodbye to their child and let them go when their heart is still beating.

“That is what happens when a child is being kept alive – you don’t want to let go.

Read more: Heartbreak as charity shop set up in honour of Charlie and Carter Cookson targeted by shoplifters

“We knew nothing about organ donation until Charlie was about to take his last breath, no-one likes to mention it to you at the time.”

Carter needed a heart transplant but no suitable donor could be found.

Carol said: “It was different with Carter. We were prepared to donate, but his organs were not suitable and could not be used.

“You have to think that it’s that last moment that will go on forever, for as long as their heartbeat lasts in someone else.”

Charlie died of undiagnosed health problems after a fight for life that led to him being given the South Tyneside Child of Courage Award.

The Charlie Cookson Foundation charity – now named the Charlie & Carter Foundation – was founded soon afterwards.

Related content: Dad of tragic Carter Cookson speaks of precious hours they spent with son before health battle

It has raised over £160,000 to support the families of children with life limiting conditions who require round-the-clock nursing care or specialist nursing facilities.

Chris and Sarah suffered a second heartbreak when Carter, who was born needing a new heart, died aged just 25 days, after a suitable donor could not be found.

Sarah attended the launch of the Simplyhealth Great North 10k at Sage Gateshead, joining other people from across the North East who have experience of organ donation.

They aiming to encourage people to share their organ donation wishes with members of their families.

Also present at the launch was Joanne Nicholson, 40, the Charlie & Carter Foundation manager, who will run alongside Sarah in the race.

Other foundation supporters taking part are Joanne’s husband Mark, 43, and daughter Eve, 20 – and fellow charity backers are being urged to run to raise funds.

The 10k challenge is a precursor to the World Transplant Games, which take place on Tyneside in August.

Anyone who would like to take part to support the foundation should email Joanne at or call 0191 466 1429.