6-year-old to run 6Kms to raise funds for classmate’s wheelchair

Shefali Saxena Wednesday 24th November 2021 01:59 EST

6-year-old Vidyut is on a quest to help his classmate and friend, Sophie, by running six kilometres in six consecutive weeks to raise funds for Sophie’s new wheelchair. He started running on 20 November at Black Park Country Park in Wexham.

Sophie Guerra Valdés (6) lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic condition that causes muscle deterioration and difficulty moving. She’s from West Drayton. Due to SMA Sophie is unable to crawl, stand, walk, or move independently from one place to another. She was diagnosed with this condition when she was 18 months old. 

Hoping to raise £27,000 for her wheelchair, Sophie’s mother Tammy told My London News, “She got a small wheelchair from the NHS - it gave her a little freedom. But Sophie needs to go to school, she likes to go to the park and to outdoor activities so this wheelchair is not suitable for her. It’s not a chair that covers all her necessities.”

Speaking exclusively to Asian Voice, Vidyut’s mother Nishtha Chug told us that  Vidyut and Sophie have been friends and classmates from day one of school. Both of them attend St. Martin's Primary School in West London. 

Nishtha told Asian Voice, “We are aware of Sophie's struggles as a wheelchair-using child. Earlier this month, Sophie's mum Tammy Valdes launched a campaign to fundraise for a new and high-tech wheelchair to meet her changing needs. After a week, we noticed it wasn't going well and decided to get involved. Our original plan was to sell cakes and cookies to raise funds but our local councillors never replied to our emails seeking permission. After discussing many options we decided on running. 

“Vidyut has developed a passion for running since we started running our local Parkrun every weekend as a family this year. It was his idea to run 6km for the next six weeks "because both Sophie and I are six" (only a 6-yr old can come up with such a logic). In just three days since Vidyut's pledge, the fundraiser has received over £2000 in donations. He ran his first run yesterday, 20 November 2021 and will have his last run on Christmas Day.”

Empathy and compassion at a tender age 

When asked about the kind of emotional and mental maturity is needed at his age to be so empathetic, Nishtha said, “As Vidyut's parents, we have often been told he appears mature and patient for his age. Our home environment may have played a part in shaping his character. Through our professions (I am a journalist, his dad a roboticist) he's been constantly exposed to news, books, podcasts, documentaries and magazines since he was a toddler. 

“He started reading at an early age and continues to be a voracious reader. We have always encouraged him to ask questions, and we never shy away from discussing sensitive or complex issues like climate change, wars, religion, disability, poverty, racism etc with him. Vidyut is highly driven, strong-willed and hard working. He enjoys a high degree of autonomy and makes his own decisions most of the time. We never doubted his conviction when he said he wanted to run for Sophie.”   

£10K by Christmas

Sharing her son's vision about this initiative at a tender age, Nishtha told the newsweekly that Vidyut would like to raise the full £10K by Christmas. “He thinks this would make for a lovely Christmas present for Sophie. Since his pledge, he's become even more aware of Sophie's enormous daily struggles with Spinal Muscular Atrophy. His teachers have often told us how thoughtful and kind he is towards everyone in his class,” Vidyut’s mother said. 

Further sharing an important experience from the six-year-old boy’s life, his mother said, “There's a particular example I would like to highlight here. Marcus Rashford's campaign for free school meals in the UK a few months ago was a big talking point in our house for weeks. Marcus' fight with the government to overturn their decision fascinated him. It was in the news almost every day, and Vidyut heard about stories of kindness, people coming together and sending out free school meals to poor children. At the dinner table, we would often talk about why our society couldn't survive without compassion and generosity. This is possibly the first time Vidyut truly became aware of his privileged and sheltered life. This may have calibrated his moral compass and instilled a sense of empathy.” 

“He runs like Forrest Gump, and won't stop unless you tell him to. He's surprised that "the grown-ups are surprised at his ability to run 6Km. At first, the sudden onslaught of attention after he joined the fundraiser overwhelmed him a bit. Yesterday, at the Finish Line he was surprised to see big banners with his name and his classmates cheering for him. He's fine now and getting excited by the rising figure on the donation page. He's exhibiting a new sense of responsibility and determination, a sense of pride that he's making a meaningful change to his friend's life. 

Nishtha also said that there's no pressure since this is Vidyut’s own decision and well within his current ability. “In fact, he's been insisting on running a 10k for the last two months but we haven't let him, although he can easily cycle 10-15k. He's a happy and funny kid and we have no concerns about his mental health. If anything, getting involved in the fundraiser has boosted his confidence,” the mother told us. 

Parents incredibly inspired by Vidyut 

Nishtha said, “We are proud of Vidyut. This might surprise you but we find him incredibly inspiring. He has a strong willpower. To give you a recent example: a few Saturdays ago it was extremely cold in the morning and we didn't want to get up to go running. But Vidyut shamed us out of bed and got changed before us. He's the kind of child who says no to cake at birthday parties if he thinks he's had enough sugar for the day. Once he sets his heart on a target, he sees it right through the end. Vidyut motivates us, pushes us all the time to raise the bar higher in everything we do. We are lucky to be his parents.”

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