Five-year-old from Darlington runs to raise hundreds after death of best friend

280622 Rowan Lyons and Sophie Welburn at school brain tumour research
Rowan and Sophie at school. Credit: Brain Tumour Research

A five-year-old boy from Darlington has raised more than £500 for Brain Tumour Research, by running 10km in memory of his best friend who died from a rare, inoperable brain tumour.

Rowan Lyons completed five Junior Park Runs, one for every year of his friend's life.

His impressive efforts are in memory of his classmate Sophie Welburn, also from Darlington.

Sophie was only four-years-old when she was diagnosed with the tumour. She passed away in March this year, just eight and a half months after her diagnosis.

Rowan met Sophie in September 2021 when, despite Sophie's illness, they both started at Abbey Infant School.

Sophie's Mum, Louise Wray, said: "Rowan didn't know Sophie was poorly and he embraced her like any other child.

"Although Sophie only attended a few mornings each week when she was well enough to, Rowan would wait for her by the door of the classroom.

"They were so close, she even made him a Valentine's card."

Rowan and Sophie pulling faces at school Credit: Brain Tumour Research

Sophie continued to go to school until early March. However, her condition quickly deteriorated and on 18 March, Sophie died peacefully at home with her loving family by her side.

Rowan said: "I felt really sad when Sophie died, and I miss my best friend. I wanted to do something good, and I like running. I felt very tired afterwards."

He has taken part in five 2km runs - running a total of 10km - and has raised £502 for Brain Tumour Research.

Rowan's mum, Marianne Lyons, said: "My husband, Rob, and I are really proud of him. We still talk about Sophie, and the fundraising has helped Rowan to understand what has happened."

Sophie's dad, Chris Welburn, said: "Sophie and Rowan were such good friends, and I think what he's done is so lovely. He is a little superstar.

"I think Sophie would be so proud of Rowan, and she would be cheering him on."

Rowan at his first junior park run Credit: Brain Tumour Research

Matthew Price, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research said: "We also think Rowan is a superstar, and we're really grateful to him as it's only with the support of people like him that we're able to progress our research into brain tumours and improve the outcome for patients like Sophie who are forced to fight this awful disease.

"Unlike many other cancers, brain tumours are indiscriminate. They can affect anyone at any time.

"Too little is known about the causes and that is why increased investment in research is vital."

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