A Banbridge boy who lost his legs to meningitis is running in the Bann 10k and Fun Run and the public are being urged to do the same.
Oliver Lewis is taking part in this year’s event which is partnering with charity Meningitis Now to help raise awareness of the devastating disease and funds to fight it.
Oliver became ill with meningitis in 2007 on the way home from a family holiday and was given less than a 10 per cent chance of survival.
But the plucky youngster survived, despite significant after-effects, including the amputation of both legs below the knee and the fingertips on his left hand.
He was first fitted with prosthetic legs in November 2007 and walked for the first time on these the following January.
Oliver’s mum, Karen, from Banbridge, said: “Almost 10 years on from Oliver contracting meningitis, the memories are as clear as if it was yesterday.
“As a disease, meningitis scars physically and mentally, and it scars everyone in the entire family circle. We have always tried to remain positive and are extremely thankful for the support we get from our families and the local community.
“Oliver is very active. As well as loving outdoor adventure, he plays football and golf after school, swims, does gymnastics and is a member of Banbridge Athletics Club.
“Thanks to Heather’s coaching and encouragement, Oliver has just received national classification from the British Athletics Classification Panel.”
Oliver will be taking part in the Bann Fun Run with his sisters, Niamh and Clara and mum, together with as many family members and friends as Karen can rope in. Father, Alan, is taking on the 10K event.
Race organiser and coach Heather Ardis said: “Meningitis has affected many families across Northern Ireland, including club member Oliver Lewis and his family.
“As Oliver turns 10 this year it seems fitting that as we celebrate our tenth anniversary we also take steps to fight this disease.”
The Bann 10K and Fun Run takes place on Wednesday 25 May, with the 10K starting at 7pm and Fun Run at 7.10pm.
Organisers are hoping to celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary by improving on last year’s turn out of 1,100 runners.
To enter, visit the website at: https://online.athleticsni.org/ps/event/Bann10KFunRun2016
The event is sponsored by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Moon Lighting, Fit Banbridge, Quails, G & L Consultancy Ltd, Dynamic, Brown Bear, Shoefair Sports, Brooks, The Windsor and Opus.
Jo Wilson, from Meningitis Now in Northern Ireland, said: “Oliver is such an inspiration to everyone fighting back from meningitis and we wish him well in the race.
“We’re really grateful to the race organisers for selecting us as their chosen charity this year.
“As a charity that receives no Government funding we rely entirely on the generosity, energy and initiative of our supporters to raise the vital funds we need to carry out our lifesaving and life-changing work.
“Meningitis is a devastating disease. Joining in with this event will make a real difference to those who are at risk from it and those whose lives have already been changed forever because of it.”
Meningitis Now, in its 30th anniversary year this year, is working towards a future where no one in the UK loses their life to meningitis and everyone affected gets the support they need.
It does this by funding research into vaccines and prevention, raising awareness so people know what to look for and what action to take if they suspect meningitis.