FAMILY, friends and celebrity supporters will come together at May’s Great Manchester Run to celebrate the life of the late Kirsty Howard.
Kirsty, who passed away last October aged 20, was one of two people in the world to suffer from a condition where her heart was back to front.
Having set up the Kirsty appeal soon after diagnosis, the target of £5m was raised 10 years ago and fundraisers continue to raise more and more which is testament to everyone involved.
Her absence from this year’s run will be strongly felt, especially as she symbolised the unique fundraising nature of one of the biggest days in Manchester’s sporting calendar.
The Kirsty Club, after coming to terms with the passing, has created a star-studded team to run this year’s race including Coronation Street stars Jack P Shepherd and Samia Ghadie, racing drivers Oliver Webb and Tom Ingram and former Manchester United number seven Bryan Robson.
Speaking to Quays News at the launch event inside the Hilton, Deansgate, Robson and Shepherd echoed the importance of maintaining Kirsty’s undeniable legacy now she has passed.
“With the condition and how ill she was I found it remarkable that she still continued to earn a hell of a lot of money for the charity,” Shepherd said.
“Anything I could do to drum up a bit of interest and be involved I thought I want to do it. Now that’s she’s gone it would be a shame to forget about her because what would that say about why she was doing it?
“Anything [the Corrie cast] can do to get people to put their hands in their pocket helps and to remember Kirsty as well is the least we can do.”
Robson, meanwhile, is set to be The Kirsty Club’s honorary race starter on May 22 but confessed that he would be in some bother if his former club Manchester United enjoyed an FA Cup run.
“I’m hoping to start the race but if Manchester United get to the FA Cup final it could be a problem for me,” he admitted.
And when pressed on Louis Van Gaal and his side’s chances?
“They are in the quarter-final and they’ve got a home draw so hopefully they can achieve it and make the final but I’m really hoping to start the race!”
One of the prominent figures at the launch, and in the Kirsty Club, was club director Phil Taylor who told Quays News how Kirsty was like a “surrogate daughter” to him and the money raised is essential in keeping Francis House going.
“She had a wicked sense of humour like me so we could laugh at the same things and she came on holiday with me multiple times. We went out twice a week to shop and get food and she really was a big person in my life.”
Her boyfriend, Richard Bowden, also paid tribute to her as the pair reminisced about the many good memories Kirsty gave so many people.
If she was here with us today at an event like this she relishes social occasions so she’d be telling jokes, laughing, smiling and probably singing a song. She just loved people.”
The Junior Great Manchester Run on Saturday, May 21, will also pay special tribute to Kirsty. Entrants will receive a number one for the back of their running tops – the number Kirsty wore in every junior run since the event began in 2003. That number will then be officially retired as a mark of respect following this year’s event.
All the guests in attendance heralded the touching gesture with Robson in particular impressed by the organisers’ decision.
“I think it’s a lovely gesture and it’s a great format this year with all the kids wearing number one – it’s a special idea and to retire the number after the race is thoroughly deserved for Kirsty after all she achieved.”
Before the event concluded, Shepherd had been convinced to sign up to do the run – something he previously was not down to do – but admitted there will be no strict gym regime.
“I won’t be training I’ll just wing it! They said I can walk it so I’ll plan on doing that a little bit given it’s six miles.”
To enter the Great Manchester Run on Sunday, May 22, go to www.greatrun.org/Manchester
Or, you can donate by text by sending KHFH70 followed by £1 or any amount up to £10 to 70070.
By Nathan Salt