Hebburn mum writes new children's book inspired by disabled son's touching Transatlantic friendship with American athlete
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Toby Horner, nine, from Hebburn, struck up the unlikely friendship with Jodi Gilmour in Rockford, Illinois, after they were paired through a site called I run 4.
The group hooks up people taking on running challenges with others physically less fortunate.
Toby suffered a hypoxic brain injury – a restriction on the oxygen being supplied to the brain during labour and sadly this resulted in a cerebral palsy diagnosis at five months old.
He needs equipment to help him sit, stand and walk.
Jodi has dedicated her various races, including runs and triathlons, to Toby, and helped raise funds for his equipment online.
The pair have been in touch regularly since they were matched, with the family becoming close friends.
Toby’s mother Tracey, 38, said she was so moved by the relationship between the pair, she was inspired to write ‘The Little Falcon’, described as a story about kindness, friendship and a little bird that couldn’t fly.
Tracey, who is also mum to Ethan, seven and Lucas, four, said: “Toby has spent his life so far, surprising us, bringing us joy, making us laugh and just being an absolute superstar.
"Although he has a great quality of life, he is happy and accepts the things he can and can't do, I think there will still be the odd moment of sadness, when there are things he knows he may miss out on.”
Tracey said Jodi trains hard and competes in many different races across America, sending all the medals over to Toby.
She is hoping to take part in the Great North Run next year and finally meet the family in person.
This is where the idea for Tracey’s book stemmed from as wanted to create a gift to Jodi to thank her for being a good friend to Toby.
Jodi said: “When Tracey told me late last year that she wrote this book, I couldn't believe it. When she sent me a copy of the story, I just couldn't stop crying and smiling. It is truly the best, most heartfelt gift I've ever received.
“I feel so blessed to have been matched with such an amazing boy and his family. I love always having that extra motivation at races. When I get tired and think about quitting, I just think about Toby and how he never quits. That helps me to put a smile on my face and keep going!
“I can't say enough nice things about Tracey and her lovely family. Not just Toby, but Ethan, Lucas and Adam. The Horners are the best!
Tracey added: “I have always enjoyed writing and poetry so having a book published has been a dream come true for me, and I'm so proud of everything I've achieved.”
"The Little Falcon and my next book, due to be published early 2023 called ‘We're all just the Same’, are both inspired by Toby, and I'm passionate about teaching young children the importance of kindness and inclusion.”
Any schools wishing to book author visits can contact Tracey via email [email protected]
Copies of the book are can be purchased through South Tyneside Libraries, a range of book retailers and via Tracey’s website.