Aaron takes on Belfast City Half Marathon for Mencap and Son Billy

With the 2018 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon on Sunday 23 September, Aaron Blain is one of 320 participants preparing to take part in aid of learning disability and official charity partner of the event, Mencap Northern Ireland.

Aaron Blain (age 31), his partner Julie (age 33) and their son Billy (age 3) live in Belfast. Billy has a learning disability, autism and global developmental delay and attended the Mencap Children’s Centre this year, which is run in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. Aaron explains the impact that Mencap’s support had on Billy, which led him to start running in support of Mencap.

Aaron said, “I had to find a way to thank Mencap and their staff for all the time and effort they have given to my son Billy. Billy was fortunate enough to get a place in the Mencap Children’s Centre last year, he has developed faster and further than we ever thought possible in such a short space of time. Running the Belfast Half Marathon and supporting Mencap is the least I can do to show our appreciation for the work they do.”

“Getting a place for Billy in the Mencap Children’s Centre meant everything to us. Initially everything was fine with Billy, but during a routine hospital visit when he was six months old, they noticed he was not sitting up or supporting himself, so we knew something was not right. At 16 months he was starting to sit up and he went for constant tests and screening to see what was wrong. Then just before his second birthday Billy was diagnosed with a genetic disorder resulting in a learning disability, autism and global developmental delay.”

“Then last year a colleague mentioned applying to the Mencap Children’s Centre and we were very lucky to get Billy a place, then our world changed almost immediately. Billy could not walk, talk, or feed himself when he started with Mencap. Within two weeks, he was starting to walk and by Christmas, he started to say a few words.  He started to recognise colours, then count to 5, then 10, then 20, we were amazed at how well he developed in the year at Mencap.”

“We both felt it was a real weight lifted of our shoulders, as we could ask anyone anything about what was needed for Billy. The Mencap and Belfast Health Trust staff not only helped Billy, they also supported us as a family. We got to know all the other parents and we became a real community. We honestly cannot thank Mencap enough, so I am going to run and ask everyone else to support Mencap’s work.”

The 2018 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon is the final event of Mencap’s three-year partnership with the Belfast Marathons.

Margaret Kelly, Director of Mencap Northern Ireland added: “Mencap would like to thank Aaron and all of the 320 participants who will run in support of our work this year. Funds raised will help support the Mencap Children’s Centre, as well as deliver vital services to support adults to find a job for the first time. It will also support our work in social care to help adults with a learning disability to live independently, giving them a choice on how they live their lives.”