Meet TOFS’ Great North Run team

We are happy to announce our Team TOFS runners for the 2022 Great North Run.

Running to support TOFS are:

  • Clare Perez
  • Neil Johns
  • Mary Riddings-Bhatti
  • Andy Robinson
  • Ange Banks

Scroll down to read their stories on why supporting TOFS is important to them.

If you would like more information on how you can support TOFS please click here.

Meet our runners

Clare Perez

My little girl, Naiara, was born with oesophageal atresia and tracheo-oesophageal fistula.

Welcoming Naiara in to the world was the most bittersweet moment of our lives.

We lived in Lanzarote for many years (my husband is Spanish) and for the first year of Naiara’s life I feel I wasted it being depressed, anxious and constantly thinking what if. I know had we have had Naiara in Lanzarote as we did our son. She may not be here and the closest specialist hospital would of been a 1-2 hour plane journey away.

As we were approaching the end of 2021 I realised I needed to stop this vicious cycle of constant pain and upset and I applied to go to University and study nursing (my way of giving back the incredible care we always receive). 

However, I still felt I needed to do something else and when I saw an advertisement for the Great North Run I emailed the TOFS office straight away.

I have never been one to run, I enjoy walking but was always the one hiding in a tree during cross country at school (hence why I’m sure my friends and family will be donating as its so strange for me).

I know I wont be the fastest but I am determined to do something totally out of my comfort zone and raise as much money as possible for such an incredible charity as TOFS.

We feel so very grateful to have everybody in the group for support. I hope I can count on you all to cheer me on. Clare x

Neil Johns

Hi, I’m Neil Johns; Dad of Sophie (8), our TOF Sammy (3) and Husband to TOFS Trustee Clare.

As with most of our OA/TOF parents, it was a shock to find out that Sammy was born needing lifesaving surgery for a condition that I didn’t know existed. The weeks after Sammy’s birth were a blur, but finding the TOFS Website, Book and Facebook Support Group, we were able to understand what we were going to go through and equip ourselves with all the questions that we needed answers to.

The support TOFS provides our family is also so much more than helpful resources.

Running a half marathon is not something I thought I’d do in a million years, but after travelling to Newcastle to support the 2021 runners, I was inspired. Training is going well and I’ll hopefully achieve a good time – I’m sure my family, friends and supporters will keep me going!

Neil Johns

Mary Riddings-Bhatti

It’s been an ambition of mine to run a race for TOFS since Isaac was small.

Isaac was diagnosed with a Tracheo-oesophageal fistula and Oesophageal Atresia when he was a few hours old. I was a single parent and hadn’t a clue what lay ahead for us. Although Isaac had the fistula repaired; we faced many challenges for the first few years of his life.

TOFS was signposted to me when Isaac was in hospital, although I didn’t think I’d actually need them. I thought Isaac would be fine, because I was told to treat him like any other baby. But he wasn’t fine.

It was a steep learning curve and I made it up as I went along, with the support of the charity. He had continual choking incidents, repeated calls to 999 and frequent chest infections throughout the winter, he ate a soft diet until he was three. And even then, every meal was anxiety provoking. It took a long time to figure what Isaac could and couldn’t eat. We’d take one step forward then three steps back.

TOFS were so helpful during the early years, providing support when Isaac started nursery and school. It was so useful to speak to other parents who had been through the same situation that I was going through. I was even able to speak to a parent from TOFS on a Bank Holiday Monday when I thought I was losing my mind and convinced I couldn’t feed Isaac or he would choke!

But he went to nursery and he started school. Isaac is now 9 and doing AMAZING. For me, it’s an ideal time to run this race and give something back to the charity that helped me so much.

Andy Robinson

My 4 year old son, George, was born with tracheo-oesophageal fistula / oesophageal atresia (OA/TOF). As parents we had never heard of the condition before and worried about what the future would hold.

George was operated on by the amazing staff at Alder Hey Hospital on the day he was born and they then discover he had a laryngeal cleft which also required repair.

TOFS charity have been fantastic with their support throughout our journey and I have been lucky enough to get a place to run the Great North Run 2022 to help raise some much needed money for them.

Any small amount will go a long way to help them support others. 

Please help by donating and supporting me in my run which will be my biggest challenge to date. I am equally nervous and excited for September 11th. Bring it on!! 

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