250-mile canal challenge in support of children’s charities

Catherine and Garry Dowdle recently completed an epic fundraising challenge raising more than £10,500 to support The Sick Children’s Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital

Parents, Catherine and Garry Dowdle, have recently completed an epic fundraising challenge in support of The Sick Children’s Trust and Great Ormond Street Hospital. They walked almost 250 miles from their home near Manchester to London along the canal network taking a total of 19 days and raising more than £10500 for the two charities.

In 1993 their son, Charlie, was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital after suffering serious internal injuries at birth. He underwent emergency, lifesaving surgery and spent the next few weeks on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

During that time there were many low points and Catherine and Garry didn’t know from day to day whether Charlie would survive. His kidneys also shut down and he needed dialysis, he contracted a hospital infection and he had persistent jaundice that wouldn’t respond to treatment and there was always a question mark over whether he had suffered any brain damage.

During that traumatic time at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), Garry and Catherine were supported by The Sick Children’s Trust with a place to stay at their Guilford Street House, which is located just minutes away from GOSH.

Garry said: “Being offered a room at Guilford Street House was like a miracle when we were at our lowest ebb. It was such a special place to come home to, it became our sanctuary where we could get away from the hospital for a little while and feel a bit ‘normal’. We could be contacted by the staff on the NICU at any time, day or night, and with Guilford Street House so close to the hospital we could be back at Charlie’s side in minutes. There were other families staying there who also had seriously ill children in the hospital and we all supported each other, along with Pat, who was the House Manager at the time, who was always there as a shoulder to cry on or to simply have a chat. It really was a much-needed safe haven for us at that terrible time.”

Finally after five weeks in hospital, Catherine and Garry were told that Charlie could go home.

Catherine said: “When we were able to take Charlie home, it was quite a scary moment! For a long time afterwards we weren’t sure what the long-term prognosis would be, and whether there would be any lasting impact from the start he’d had. Happily, over the months and years that followed Charlie went from strength to strength and he’s suffered no major ill effects.

We really don’t know what we would have done without the support of The Sick Children’s Trust during our time at Great Ormond Street.  We’ll be forever grateful to them.”

Catherine and Garry took on the fundraising challenge this year to celebrate two special events in Charlie’s life – in September, he got married to Jodie and in October he turned 30.

Catherine continued: “We’ve never done anything like this before, so it was quite a logistical challenge to organise! It was an incredible and physically challenging experience. We had amazing support from family and friends, who put us up, fed us, moved our luggage and walked with us too. We met so many lovely people along the way who listened to our story and donated to our challenge.

“It was so emotional to arrive first at Guilford Street House and then GOSH with Charlie and Jodie, as well as our other son, Jacob, and friends all greeting us. It really was an amazing and personally fulfilling adventure and something that we’ll never forget. In doing it we’ve been able to raise valuable funds for two great charities who made such a difference in our lives, as well as raising awareness and offering hope to families with sick children that things can turn out well in the end. It’s really motivated us to do more fundraising in the future!”

Community Fundraising Officer at The Sick Children’s Trust, Laura George, said:

“We can’t thank Catherine and Garry enough for their tireless efforts in planning and completing this epic challenge to support our ‘Home from Home’ and everyone who helped them along the way. We’re in awe of their commitment and resilience and their amazing fundraising will cover the cost of 127 nights in our ‘Homes from Home’, keeping families close to their seriously ill children.

“As a charity we rely on the generosity of our supporters and fundraisers like, Catherine and Garry, so we can continue to support families when they need us most. Catherine and Garry have truly gone above and beyond to ensure we can be there for those families.”

Related Content

Email Newsletter

Every year we help families by giving them somewhere to stay near their seriously ill child’s hospital bedside. Sign up to receive our email newsletters to stay up to date with how your support is helping to keep families together.