This South Shields toddler who fought for life inspires huge fundraiser involving 120 people so far

A toddler from South Shields, who spent the first few months of life in hospital, has inspired a huge fundraiser for the Tiny Lives Trust.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 9:25 am
Avan Mullen, now three, was born prematurely

Today Avan Mullen is a happy, healthy three-year-old but, after being born prematurely at just 23 weeks, spent his first four and a half months fighting for life at the Special Care Baby Unit at The Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, where his family were supported by The Tiny Lives Trust.

His strength inspired a group of his parents’ friends to raise money for the trust during lockdown with a fitness challenge called #50milesfortinylives, and it’s snowballed into a group of more than 100 runners and 20 cyclists who’ve so far raised £7,000 for the cause.

The aim of the challenge is to get people out and moving again throughout June as lockdown restrictions relax, setting targets for runners, walkers and cyclists to rack up the miles for Tiny Lives.

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Avan Mullen is now a happy three-year-old

Participants can choose to run 50 miles, walk 100 miles or cycle 200 miles and will be added to exclusive Strava clubs in which people can track their miles and give support to their fellow athletes.

Avan’s dad, Phil Mullen, said the family were delighted by the amount raised for the trust which provided them with invaluable resources while his son was in hospital.

Just some of the resources provided include ‘Miniboos’ which are small, soft comforters that are given to mother and baby, then swapped.

This means that the mother can smell her baby, and vice versa, to help with bonding and the production of breast milk. They can also be used by dads and siblings, helping them with the bonding process.

Avan was born early at just 23 weeks

Tiny Lives also provide financial support for transportation and parking fees, as well as a dedicated social worker.

The initial fundraising target was £500 but through community support the team has now raised £7000, a figure which is increasing daily.

Phil, who is married to Amy, said: “We are overwhelmed at the momentum the #50milesfortinylives fundraiser has gathered. What initially started as a lockdown challenge between a few local lads has turned into something really special, we now have people running in America and donations coming in from the Middle East.

“I have experienced first hand the invaluable support and guidance that Tiny Lives provides to babies and their families in a time when they need it the most. I am so pleased that we are able to give something back as a way of saying thank you for everything they do.”

Avan, centre, with mum Amy and sister Amilie getting some miles in

People can still take part by searching 50 Miles for Tiny Lives on Facebook or Instagram.

Louise Carroll, Community and Events Fundraiser at Tiny Lives, said: “It was lovely to receive an email from Phil and to hear what he and a few friends had planned for June to support Tiny Lives but also to keep active in such a strange time.

“The money raised will make such a difference to the babies and families on the Neonatal Unit, especially when all our normal fundraising events have been cancelled or postponed. We can’t thank Team Avan enough.”

Kimberley and Michael D'Arcy are just two of the participants in the 50 miles for Tiny Lives challenge

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