Oldham Athletic Football Club is supporting a family of supporters who are walking 170 miles from Oldham to Bristol in memory of a three-year-old girl who tragically died of cancer.
Molly-Ann Smith lost her battle with a rare cancer, neuroblastoma, on Christmas Day, 2005. To mark the 10th anniversary of her death, members of her family will take on the challenging walk in a bid to raise awareness and money for two charities.
Molly’s cousin Ryan Grady (28) said: “We all wanted to do something to mark the anniversary of her death and help those who helped her. We’re hoping to raise £10,000 — £1,000 for each year.”
The 14 walkers will set off from The Royal Oldham Hospital on January 6 and walk for 17 hours a day to reach Bristol Children’s Hospital, where Molly had most of her treatment. They are aiming to arrive on January 9 - which would have been her birthday.
Ryan, from Heyside, said: “I do a lot of walking but I know it will be tough. We will probably have to camp out on the way. The weather will be against us but we won’t give up. Molly-Ann will keep us going all the way.”
He described his cousin as “clever and beautiful little girl” who was always smiling despite her illness. She was incredibly brave for someone so young. She must have been in terrible pain but she never cried or let it show.
Doctors warned Molly-Ann’s family that their little girl had only weeks to live and would not make it to Christmas. Her parents, Ann and John, wanted to move the day forward, but festivities were cut short as Molly-Ann fell into a coma.
Ryan added: “She loved Christmas and always looked forward to it so we knew she’d try make it.
“She had been very ill for a while but on Christmas day she opened her eyes, smiled and was able to open her presents before she died that afternoon. It was incredibly sad and the family were devastated.”
Family member, Gerry Grady from Royton, said: “It is fantastic to see the football club supporting our challenge; it just goes to show how much Oldham Athletic is a family orientated club.
“We would like to thank everyone at the club and the Community Trust for their continued support during the build up to the walk.”
Community Trust Coach Dale Harris commented: “I first saw this article in the local newspaper; I took it to Wendy Noble the Operations Manager for the Community Trust and asked if we could do anything to help this family who have been through such heart breaking times.
“It is great to see everyone at the club getting behind the walkers and helping them to raise awareness and much needed funds for these two fantastic charities in memory of such a brave young girl.”
The money raised will go to children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent, which provides support, and Hugs for Henry — a charity set up by parents of a neuroblastoma sufferer to help others in the same situation.
The 14 family members will be invited to the game with Colchester United on January 2 as guests of the club to raise awareness of their challenge.
You can donate online via the Just Giving page with their target set for £10,000.