Family and friends to take on Great North Run in memory of much loved Derek 'Dez' Heslop

Family and friends of much loved Derek Heslop are to tackle this year’s Great North Run in honour of his memory and to raise vital funds for the Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS).

Dez, as he was affectionately known, was only 23 when he slipped and fell 15 foot from a roof in South Shields and sustained a severe head injury on what was only his fourth day in his new role as a roofer.

His partner Rebecca Ward was six months pregnant with their first child at the time and recalled how the GNAAS were the “first on the scene” and airlifted Dez to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

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Rebecca said: “Dez remained in an induced coma for seven days but unfortunately he didn’t survive, despite everyone’s best efforts, but if it wasn’t for the Air Ambulance Service acting as quickly and efficiently as they did, he would never have stood a chance.”

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Dez sadly passed away in February 2014, but ever since his family and friends, who call themselves the ‘Bees Knees’, have honoured his memory by running the Great North Run.

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Dez’s sister, Natasha Heslop, said: “When I lost my big brother Derek in 2014 it completely shook my world. I organised a number of charity events to raise money for GNAAS and in 2018 I signed up to my first Great North run and ran, walked and hobbled it while unknowingly pregnant with my first child.

"The support of the crowds and the other runners was amazing and believe me when I say you do not need to be a runner to complete it.

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Dez Heslop with partner Rebecca Ward.

“I remember the buzz from start to finish. I signed up on the day in the GNAAS charity tent and you won’t find a more grateful supportive team. This time I will have my two children at the finish line and my big brother watching over me.”

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Since 2014, the family annually run the 13.1 mile course and have raised thousands of pounds for the GNAAS.

Great North Run veteran and Dez’s uncle, Colin Staples said: "The first time I ran the Great North Run was in 1986 and overall I have ran it 10 times now. Over the past few years I have ran to support the GNAAS after the great support given by them to my nephew.

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“The feeling while running it with family members and the support of Derek's friends also running is very hard to put into words, other than you go through so many emotions with memories of Derek while running; laughter, tears and joy and then the achievement you have while crossing with everyone, along with knowing you have also helped support an amazing cause."

Rebecca was six moths pregnant when Dez tragically died.
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Colin will be joined on the run by family friend Mark Dobson who added: “The GNAAS is a charity very close to my heart. They gave Dez the best possible chance of surviving after a tragic accident.

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"Unfortunately he lost his battle. Running for the GNAAS is like a big thank you for their efforts.”

The GNAAS provide critical care 365 days a year to severely ill or injured people throughout the North East, North Yorkshire, and Cumbria. Great North Run places to run for the GNAAS are available with further details available on their website.

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Dez's family and friends running in his memory and for the GNAAS at a previous Great North Run.
The Bees Knees running in memory of Dez Heslop.