Mum’s memory inspires plant nursery owner’s 55km charity challenge

PUBLISHED: 12:27 03 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:35 03 July 2018

Fundraiser David Thomas and his eight-year-old daughter Orla. Picture: Sue Ryder St John's Hospice

Fundraiser David Thomas and his eight-year-old daughter Orla. Picture: Sue Ryder St John's Hospice


When eight-year-old Orla Thomas told her dad David “you’ll never do that”, it was just the push he needed.

Days later, on his 43rd birthday, David signed up to run the 55km Lake District Ultra Challenge, despite never having run more than 10km.

Now, five months on, he’s in the final days of training for the five-stage run this Sunday – which includes 7,000 feet of climbs up some of the country’s biggest hills.

David’s doing it all to raise money for Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice in Moggerhanger, where his mum Kathy was cared for in October 2016.

David, who owns the Growing Strong at Hillcrest plant nursery just north of Hitchin, said: “When mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2016, she made it clear that she wanted to be cared for at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice.

“When the person who is ill has a plan it’s very reassuring – as a family we just had to make that happen for mum.

“After mum died I knew I wanted to do something to raise money. It took some time to be ready to do it.

“Then Orla and I were looking at challenges on the internet, and we spotted this ultra run in the Lake District – it’s an area we know well, having holidayed there regularly over a number of years.

“Orla looked at it and said: ‘you’ll never do that’. And that was all I needed to sign up!”

David started training on the roads and tracks around his home in Pirton, and has encouraged friends, family and workmates to sponsor him. The Growing Strong team will be holding a sale on Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15, with all profits going to his fundraising pot.

David has also found time to volunteer at St John’s, using his expertise in the gardens.

“It’s a beautiful place and I’m happy to help in whatever way I can,” said David.

“I’ve set myself a fundraising target of £1,250 which I’m confident I can hit with the help of family, friends and customers.

“This is my first ever competitive race and I want to do what I can to help Sue Ryder because they helped my family when we needed it most.”

To sponsor David, have a look at

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