Young fundraiser Harry, who is racing around the moon for his seriously ill little brother, has completed a mile of his challenge at last weekend’s Salisbury Football Club match.
Harry Byrne was invited to be a mascot at the home match against Hartley Wintney FC (Saturday 9 October), and the seven-year-old ran three laps around the pitch at half time in front of the crowd at the Ray Mac stadium.
Supporters of both teams cheered Harry on and filled donations buckets with just under £1,000 on the day. Both clubs were also united in their support for the youngster and made separate donations, with Salisbury FC players giving up their Christmas night out fund.
Harry, from Larkhill, is completing the 6786-mile distance around the moon, with the support of friends and family, through a combination of challenges, including moonlit walks and mountain climbing.
Salisbury FC Coach, Chris ‘Keano’ Keane, said, “I first learned about Harry’s ‘race around the moon’ challenge when he came to our kids’ summer holiday football club. I asked his Mum Sophie more about it and she shared their family story. We were all blown away and wanted to do what we could to help.
“I told Harry he was a hero and he said, “I’m not a hero – it’s my brother who is the hero.” I’ve only known Harry for a short time, but it’s clear that he just wants to give to others. He’s such an inspirational young man, and I don’t think he realises how special he is.”
Keano added, “We presented Harry with a Salisbury FC shirt and invited him to be a mascot and meet the team at our match against Hartley Wintney. It was brilliant that he could complete a mile of his challenge around the pitch on the day, and the whole club was behind him with donations and support. He was beaming – it was wonderful to see. And we all enjoyed the day too.”
Mum Sophie Byrne said, “Harry said it was the best day ever. He loved smashing goals past the keeper and having everyone cheering him on. He had the biggest smile on his face and he was in his element. I’m so grateful to the club for giving us such a wonderful day, and to the fans for their generosity.”
Despite a rocky start with a 6am ambulance call for Reuben, who can suffer up to 10 seizures a day because of his condition, the family were all able to attend the special day.
“Reuben was a little sleepy at the game, but when he woke up we got him out for a cuddle and he watched Harry do his mile,” said Sophie. “Harry cuddled Reuben as soon as he got back – it was so cute. Our six-month-old Felix was also there and he had an absolute blast from the box."
Speaking about his challenge, Harry said, “I’m doing it because I love Reuben to the moon and back. It was a bit too far to go to the moon, so I’m racing around it instead. I want to raise money for the good nurses that come to our house and look after Reuben. I like to play with him and make him smile – it isn’t always easy but I can do it sometimes.”
Two-year-old Reuben was born with a terminal condition that causes his brain to deteriorate. It is so rare that it doesn’t have a name yet. It is the same condition that Harry’s older sister Olivia died from when she was just eight months old, and because doctors are still learning about the condition, the family were told at the time that ‘lightning doesn’t strike twice’.
Nicky Clack, Fundraising Administrator for Julia’s House, said, “It was brilliant to see Harry enjoying himself at Salisbury FC – it was a real memory making day for him and the whole family. The club made every effort to make it special for them and we’re hugely thankful to the fans, who went out of their way to find us and make a donation in our buckets.
“The money raised will make an incredible difference to families like Harry’s who rely on the essential respite care we provide in the family home and at our hospice in Devizes.”
Harry has now raised more than £6,000 towards his target of £10,000 for Julia’s House children’s hospice and Naomi House and Jacksplace. He will complete his three month challenge at the end of this month.
Watch Harry in action at the Salisbury FC website: https://www.salisburyfc.co.uk/harrys-laps-and-amount-raised/
Support Harry and join his ‘Race around the moon’ at: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Team/MoonTrekkers