After first losing her triplets to prematurity, and more recently her husband to cancer, Sophie used running as a way to lift her spirits and turn an impossible situation into a life-giving organisation.
In 2007, she co-founded Running for Premature Babies. A charity that’s brought together more than 2000 people to run and raise money for future babies to have a better chance at life. Now running has not only saved her, it’s saved countless parents, families, and friends by helping them grieve, honour their babies and save the lives of thousands more who were born premature.
This wasn’t always the grand vision but started small with the aim to raise money for a cause she cared about.
It began 12 years ago in late 2006 when Sophie and her husband Ash "felt so unbelievably blessed” to become parents for the first time. Then after their babies — Henry, Jasper, and Evan — arrived prematurely, "despite huge efforts to save their lives,” one-by-one died in her arms.
It was heartbreaking. Yet their lives were richer for having been parents to their baby boys, and they were so thankful to the hospital for giving them the time they had.
A month later they were shocked to discover, all the medical equipment used to keep their babies alive had been donated. So they decided as a way to honour their babies, they would give back to the hospital.
They would run the Sydney half marathon with a goal to raise $20,000 and see if they could get others to join.
So Sophie hit the streets with flyers, and to her surprise, the response was big. Some people had premature babies who'd survived and wanted to help others be as lucky as they had been. Others had family or friends who’d experienced a loss, and others who just wanted to support the cause.
One woman had prematurely born twins who died in their first hours. It was coming up to their tenth birthday and she’d always wanted to do something in their name. So when she saw Sophie's flyer she knew she’d love to run in memory of her daughters.
"I was amazed, touched and delighted that this could be bigger than my triplets,” she said.
Most of the team had never run before, but Sophie, Ash, and their incredible recruits ended up being a team of 98 runners, and together they raised $80,000!
With this money, the hospital was able to buy 4 new humidicribs. Then the next year they did it again, but with more and more people there to help them.
Today, they’ve rallied enough people to run and raise 3 million dollars and benefit over 4500 babies.
After losing their beautiful boys, Sophie and her husband were able to turn their tragedy into something positive. Sadly though, two years ago, she was struck by grief all over again when she lost her husband too. So what did she do? She kept running, because “running saved me” she says. Now she runs for both her husband and her babies.
“There’s nothing anyone can say to make it better,” she explains, “but to run for someone, and to raise money for a cause in honour of someone you love, can make you feel like you’re doing something positive and supportive.” For parents, “losing a baby can be a lonely journey because people don’t know how to respond. They find it difficult to even say your baby’s name, but as a parent who’s lost their baby, all you want to do is hear your baby’s name. So what running for premature babies has done, is enable parents to speak their baby’s name, and give the family and friends of those grieving to do something in that baby’s name," and know they’re not alone.
It may not have been the initial intention to create such an impact, but with the simple intention to give back, Sophie’s been able to help thousands of people band together and run in honour of the babies who have died -- to support all premature babies, both living and lost.
Sophie’s strength and her story demonstrate that anyone can run or raise money for Running for Premature Babies, or another cause they care about. All you need to do is find a fun run in your area, create a donation page and share it on your social media. You don’t even have to hit the streets like Sophie did, but you can make an impact.