Seven-year-old to run 100km for dementia research in honour of great-grandad

12 July 2018

A seven-year-old has taken on a challenge to run 100km before the end of the summer to raise money for dementia research in honour of her great-grandfather who has a rare form of the condition.

Evie Flynn

Evie Flynn

Evie Flynn, from Bradford, is the youngest person to have signed up this year for Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Running Down Dementia campaign, which challenges people to run or walk 100km before August 31.

She has so far clocked up more than 20km from taking part in the 2km Brighouse junior parkrun on Sundays and doing a couple of 1km or 1.5km runs after school each week. She’s aiming to do the bulk of the distance during the summer holidays.

The Low Moor CofE Primary School pupil was inspired to take on the challenge as her great-grandfather – known as ‘Poppy’ – has frontotemporal dementia (FTD). The 74-year-old was diagnosed in 2012 and is now living in a nursing home.

Evie Flynn

Evie Flynn

Evie’s mum Charlie, 28, said:

“When Poppy went into the nursing home in May it hit Evie quite hard, she was upset about it. She said she wanted to turn it into a positive by doing something to raise money to find a cure.

“We looked on the internet to see what she could do and she found the Running Down Dementia challenge. I told her 100km is a really long way, but she’s determined to do it.

“She’s also insistent that walking to school won’t count towards her total – she says it has to be a run where she goes out in her running gear.

“I’m immensely proud of her. The only thing for me is that she finds it fun – I don’t want her to feel there’s pressure on her to complete it. But she’s really enjoying the challenge and she’s loving that she’s raising money – she’s is forever checking my emails to see if she’s got any more donations.

“When we visited Poppy recently we told him about what Evie is doing and showed him some pictures of her running. Although his dementia is quite advanced now, he still understands things. He had tears in his eyes and you could see he was really proud of her.”

FTD is thought to account for fewer than one in 20 of all dementia cases. While most people associate dementia with memory loss, people living with FTD usually have changes in their behaviour and personality and even their speech.

Charlie said:

Evie Flynn

Evie Flynn

“The first things we noticed was he’d say and do things which were very out of character.

“The doctor initially thought he had depression as his brother had passed away and he’d recently retired from work, but the symptoms continued to build up and it became clear it was something more serious.

“Dementia is devastating as it takes the person away from you. We’ve accepted he’s no longer my grandad, although you do still get glimpses of him. It’s very hard as you love them just as much but it’s not the person you know.

“He can’t speak now, but you can get a smile from him. He’s very aware of who my children are and he adores them, especially Evie as she’s the only girl in the family. She’s got bright ginger hair, so when she walks into his room his eyes light up. She likes to talk to him and although she knows she won’t get a response, they have a little giggle together.

“Evie understands that Poppy has got to the point he’s got to and we can’t do anything about it. She wants to help scientists find treatments so other people don’t go through it in the future.”

Running Down Dementia participants are challenged to raise £100, but Evie has already raised more than £400. To sponsor her go to https://runningdowndementia2018.everydayhero.com/uk/evie-1

Megan Ruddlesden, Sporting Events Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“We are in awe of Evie for taking on the Running Down Dementia challenge. A lot of adults find running 100km tough, so for someone so young to show so much dedication and commitment is amazing.

“Evie and the thousands of people who are taking part in Running Down Dementia are striking a blow in the battle against dementia. The vital funds raised will power world-class dementia research projects and help bring an end to the fear, harm and heartbreak of dementia.”

Evie is among more than 4,500 people taking part in Running Down Dementia this summer. They have so far run more than 225,000km and raised over £240,000.

The challenge, which is now in its third year, is open to everyone, regardless of age or fitness. When someone signs up they create their own supporter page where people can see how they are getting on and sponsor them. Participants can connect tracking apps such as Strava or MapMyFitness to their supporter page to track and record their activity or can manually add runs or walks.

To sign up for Running Down Dementia go to www.runningdowndementia.org/register

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org