PARENTS of premature babies have taken part in a torchlight walk through a Sunderland park to reflect on the hundreds of babies born too soon in the city each year.
The walk, held on World Prematurity Day, saw mums and dads and tiny tots set off from the Coach House in Barnes Park at dusk.
The group, whose lives have all been touched by premature births, were raising money for the neo-natal unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital and charity Bliss.
The walk was organised by staff nurse Cheryl Burgess, who runs the Sunderland Buddies group, where mums and dads support each other.
Ashley Willmore, 30, of South Hetton, was there with husband Michael, 32, and their daughter Jessica, who will be two at the end of the month.
“Jessica was born at 30 weeks,” Ashley said. “She is doing really, really well now. We couldn’t have gone through it without them, so we want to show our support for the unit.”
One of the young participants yesterday was little Aaron Hagan-Perry, who was walking with his mum Sarah Hagan, 38, dad Darren Perry, 25, and little brother Harry, eight months.
Aaron was born at 24 weeks, weighing just 1lb 7oz, but 17 months on he, too, was out to show his support.
“It’s such an important thing to support,” Sarah said. “We owe the lives of our babies to the neo-natal unit.”
At the end of the walk, 30 balloons were released in memory of the babies who did not make it.
“We are the lucky ones,” Sarah added. “Our babies have made it with the help of Bliss and Sunderland neo-natal unit. It is so important that we remember those who didn’t.”
To make a donation, visit http://www.justgiving.com/cheryl-burgess
Across the UK people were yesterday urged to “give a hug” to a loved one, in recognition of the parents unable to hug their babies because they are too sick.
People were also asked to light a purple candle or dress in purple to show support, and post pictures to spread the word on social networks.