LITTLE Sam McCausland's Aunt Sharon has pounded the pavements of New York to raise £7,000 and counting for the locally based muscular dystrophy charity to which her nephew gave his name.
Sharon Letters wanted to do something to raise money, raise awareness of the charity, SAM (Struggle Against Muscular dystrophy) and at the same time undertake a huge personal challenge; the New York City marathon ticked all the boxes.
Hillsborough lad Sam McCausland, son of Sharon's sister Tracey McCausland, was diagnosed with the terminal muscle-wasting condition, Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, when he was just one year old.
Sam's parents, family and friends launched their so far hugely successful, homegrown, zero-cost charity only last year to help fund research into an effective treatment and eventual cure for the disease.
Fresh from her marathon fundraiser, Sam's Aunt Sharon said that she, like everyone else connected to the youngster, was devasted to learn of his condition.
"I couldn't understand how something like this could happen," she said. "Everyone who meets Sam falls in love with him; he is so funny and loving, and to think of what the future potentially holds for him makes my stomach churn and my heart so sad."
The New York marathon, the world's largest, is such a high-profile event that Sharon taking part would surely inspire people to dig deep in support of her and the charity.
With fianc Stephen as her trainer and running partner, she embarked on a rigorous, six-month training schedule in May, weekly increasing her mileage until she was pounding the pavements four times a week, with cross training one day a week.
"Twenty-six miles is a long way and I knew it would be no easy feat to someone who is not a natural runner," she said. "There were some days going for a run was the last thing I wanted to do and when the miles built up sometimes enthusiasm was a bit short.
"I did occasionally question why I had got myself into this but then all I had to do was think of Sam; Sam was my inspiration to do the marathon and thinking of him kept me going.
"I knew that no matter how painful my muscles would be during a run or how tired I was, it is nothing to what children with CMD have to cope with.
"I would think of Sam's cheeky little grin and his infectious laugh and I want him to have reason to keep smiling and laughing; I would love Sam to have the chance to one day be able to run a race himself."
So far Sharon's online fundraising total has exceeded 7,000 and the donations are still rolling in.
"I am really touched by the response I have had," she said. "People have been so generous both with their money and their support.
"I am pleased to have spread the word to people about CMD and the charity, as this has touched a lot of people who have never heard of CMD before."
Sharon and SAM offer "an enormous 'thank-you'" to everyone who has donated and anyone who would still like to contribute can do so online at www.justgiving.com/runforsam.