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Sophie to start this year's Town and Gown 10k race

By Gemma Gardner

Sophie Saunders and Dean - Town and Gown 2018
Sophie Saunders and Dean - Town and Gown 2018

A girl who became the youngest person in the country to get a powered wheelchair licence when she was aged just two will be the race starter at this year's Muscular Dystrophy UK Cambridge Town and Gown 10k.

Sophie Saunders, now seven, has Ullrich muscular dystrophy and is looking forward to sounding the horn that will get runners out of the starting blocks on Sunday, October 21.

Her proud dad Dean and his sister, Stacey Caruso, will be taking part in the event, which is supported once again by the Cambridge Independent.

Dean, a retail manager, said: “Sophie is really looking forward to blowing the starter horn, although she doesn’t like loud noises, so someone will have to cover her ears!

“Sophie was only 13 months old when she was diagnosed. She had dislocated her hips and there was a general sense that she was not developing as fast as she should be, so a muscle biopsy was ordered. It was a shock, but it was good to get the help that we needed a bit sooner than we would have otherwise.

“She’s been a wheelchair user since she was two years old. She was actually the youngest person in England to get a licence to use a powered chair. She looked so tiny in that giant chair.

“She had to do manoeuvres and go round obstacles – it was quite amazing for a two-year-old to have that kind of level of concentration.

“What she lacks in muscles, she definitely makes up for in intelligence.”

Dean continued: “She’s in a mainstream school and she always gets top marks. She also loves arts and crafts and doing fiddly things with her fingers. She’s very creative.”

Dean said that the family have had a lot of support from the local community, including his colleagues at the Co-op shop, who helped fundraise for Sophie’s new wheelchair.

He said: “With the condition, she stabilises and regresses. She’s gone through a lot of surgeries, and now has metal rods in her spine and hips. She never stops smiling though – she keeps us going rather than the other way round.

“I’ve done quite a lot of running for Muscular Dystrophy UK, including the London Marathon, so I’m not too worried about the distance. I’ve raised £10,000 for the charity so far. I’d encourage anyone to get involved – it’s such a vital cause.

“Every time I raise money, I make sure it goes towards research, because that’s the key to the future for anyone about to be diagnosed with a muscle-wasting condition. Sophie’s condition is obviously quite progressed already, but I’m doing it for other families.”

For more information and to book, visit townandgown10k.com/cambridge.


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