BOGNOR boy Benjamin Barnes is just eight years old – the same young age as his sister was when she died five years ago.
Having seen the devastating effect of meningitis, Benjamin has decided to help raise awareness of the infection through his fundraising efforts.
He took part in the Bognor Regis Junior Fun Run last Sunday, his first sponsored run, and was delighted with the support he received.
“Although it’s only little, it’s for a great cause,” he said.
A pupil at Southway Primary Academy, in South Way, Bognor Regis, Benjamin was running in aid of international charity Meningitis Research Foundation.
Mum Sian Elliman said: “Ben was amazing! He did us all very proud. He has raised £330 on JustGiving so far and I have lots of cash to send in that takes him to nearly £400.
“He was delighted that he received a medal for competing, too. There was a huge amount of support on the day and he cannot wait to do it again next year.”
Among those cheering him on was his younger brother, Edward.
Benjamin was taking part in the fun run in memory of his sister, Alice, who contracted pneumococcal septicaemia in March 2010 and died at the age of eight.
Sian said: “When Benjamin was three-and-a-half, his older sister Alice suddenly developed an illness that showed some of the signs of meningitis.
“We rushed her to the hospital and discovered that her illness had led to pneumococcal septicaemia.
“An emergency team at the hospital desperately tried to save her but the infection spread so fast that it was catastrophic and on Sunday, March 7, 2010, Alice passed away.
“Benjamin decided to start fundraising to raise awareness of Meningitis Research Foundation, its research and the impacts of meningitis. ”
Christopher Head, chief executive at Meningitis Research Foundation, said: “We are extremely grateful to Benjamin for taking part in the Bognor Rotary Junior Fun Run on our behalf.
“As his family are sadly aware, meningitis and septicaemia are deadly diseases which can strike without warning, killing in hours.
“We rely on voluntary donations to fund our vital work into the prevention, detection and treatment of the diseases and support those affected, so every penny he raises by running in this race will make a huge difference to the charity.”
Last week, the foundation announced it had been awarded more than £700,000 for seven new projects, bringing the total number to 16 in its active research programme.
Linda Glennie, head of research, said: “We believe that scientific research holds the key to our vision of a world free from meningitis and septicaemia.
“We received over 50 initial proposals for research projects this year, reflecting a diverse range of unanswered questions about meningitis both in the UK and overseas.
“This year we have focused on three research areas and have been particularly interested in research applications addressing evaluation and implementation of the new MenB vaccine, which will be implemented later in the year as part of the childhood immunisation schedule, the burden and control of GBS and neonatal meningitis, and research in Eastern Africa to improve outcomes.”
If you would like to run for MRF in 2015, call the fundraising team on 01454 281814 or visit www.meningitis.org/get-involved for more details.
To support Benjamin, visit www.justgiving.com/Benjamin-Barnes