A father and group of 12 friends and family have crossed the finish line after taking on a 77-mile walk and raising over £7,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, to mark the 10-year anniversary of his two-year-old son’s passing.

Gavin Bridgewater, from Warrington, planned the route which took his nearest and dearest from Warrington Hospital, where his little boy, Leland, passed away, to Stourbridge Cemetery and Crematorium, where Leland now lays to rest.

When Leland was born, his parents, Gavin and Daniella, lived in the Midlands, and after arriving four weeks early, he spent almost a month in his local hospital’s neonatal unit where doctors discovered he had multiple heart defects. An atrial septal defect meant that Leland had holes in his heart, while left branch pulmonary artery stenosis meant Leland’s pulmonary artery was narrowed, making it harder for blood to flow from his right ventricle to his lungs, putting more strain on his heart.

Leland was transferred to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, a global centre of excellence for complex cardiac conditions. Doctors there told the family that although Leland would likely need surgery when he reached five-years-old, until then he only needed to return to the hospital for regular check-ups and scans, so the family went about life as normal, moving north for Gavin’s job. Tragically though, Leland’s condition deteriorated suddenly and unexpectedly, and at two-and-a-half years old, and not long before his next scan, Leland passed away in his sleep.

As the 10-year anniversary of Leland’s passing approached, Gavin began to think about how he could commemorate his life. Having replayed the journey from the Midlands to Warrington over and over in his head over the last decade, it felt right that he challenge himself to make the reverse journey on foot.

Gavin planned his journey, estimating it would take him around 30 hours to cross the finish line, but when his family and friends heard his intrepid idea, they agreed they would all step up to take on the challenge with him, helping to secure sponsorship, food donations and support from local businesses.

As the group set off on their challenge, joined by Daniella and their 11-year-old daughter Kaycee, Gavin, couldn’t believe their luck as the sun shone down on them, but as the temperature rose, it soon began to hinder the walkers. It became clear to Gavin that making the distance in 30 hours with no sleep or rest would be impossible and made the decision to tag-team the journey the rest of the way. The walkers, Bill, John, Joe, Phil, Rich, Dave, Kayleigh, Jamie and Neil, took it in turns to rest in their support minibus, kindly driven by Terry and Pam, and together, they eventually crossed the finish line.

Gavin said: “Although I was planning to take on this special journey for Leland on my own, I couldn’t have been more grateful to have my family around me. Without them and their team spirit, no one would have crossed the finish line at all! Together we made it and we raised more than I could have done on my own.

“Money doesn’t mean everything, but if it can help a child like Leland or their family create at least one more memory, then it’s worth every blister.”

Miranda Williams, Head of Public Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Losing a child is devastating, no matter how long ago, but we’re so thankful to Gavin for choosing to commemorate Leland’s life and mark this anniversary by doing something so incredible for us and our sick kids.”