The sight of 502 runners, walkers and joggers gathering in the start area ready for Billericay parkrun #93 is something we will never, ever forget!
Of that 502, we welcomed a massive 126 first timers to Billericay of which 114 were doing their first ever parkrun – making for a crowd at the first timers’ briefing by newlywed Chris that was as big as our whole field has sometimes been.
It was all made possible by our fantastic 41 parkrun volunteers who made sure that everyone got round the course safely and kept the funnel and barcode scanning queues moving.
Thanks so much to all of you – from building an emergency extra-long funnel to handing out raffle tickets when we ran out of finish tokens(!), to putting all 448 tokens back into the right order, it couldn’t have happened without you.
The amazing turnout was all down to a special event where Billericay parkrun joined forces with volunteers from the local community and charity DKMS to raise awareness and build up the stem cell donor register.
As far as we know, this is the first time a donor drive of this kind has ever been attempted at a parkrun event.
It was all inspired by Henry Walker (aged 5), who lives in Billericay.
As Henry’s Grandad David told us, Henry was diagnosed with aplastic anaemia last year – a serious condition affecting the blood where the bone marrow and stem cells do not produce enough blood cells.
With a compromised immune system, a severe infection took hold and Henry’s family were informed that he needed an urgent stem cell transplant. Sadly, there were no matches on the donor register and there was no choice but to use a parent (only a 50% match). As a result, Henry’s recovery continues to be incredibly complex.
Henry’s school friends and their parents wanted to ensure that families with a similar diagnosis would have a greater chance of a match being available.
They wore yellow – Henry’s favourite colour – dressed up as superheroes, and brought their Wadey Bears for extra encouragement.
And by the end of the morning, we had absolutely achieved our goal – running out of swabs only an hour into the event and seeing a massive new record attendance.
Just as an illustration, yesterday we were the second biggest parkrun in Essex and the fifth biggest across the whole East of England region (Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire) – pretty good for a 3.8 lap course in a small town!
Thank you to the three ‘Be THE superhero’ teams, the runners, the swabbers and the supporters – you were all brilliant, enthusiastic and best of all, you want to do it all again!
And thanks so much to all the parkrun hi vis heroes who responded so well to all the extra runners to make sure everything went without a hitch.
It was very busy, and for most not a PB day, but showed everything that makes Billericay a great place to live - and how volunteers can come together to make amazing things happen.
Thanks again to everyone who came along and hopefully see you back soon.
Henry, this one was for you
If you want to be 'swabbed' and join the register of potential donors...
If you came and weren’t able to be “swabbed”, please fill out the form via the link below and quote yesterday's drive number if possible.
They will send you a kit directly to your home.
Drive number: PKR 003
Thanks very much, you are making a real difference.
Hopefully see lots of people back next week, when David will be your Run Director!
Run Report by Zoe Howe, Isabelle Dervish and Rachel Varnam
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