A mum is to run the London Marathon to support the hospice which cared for her family after the death of her three-year-old son.
Child actor Harry Whittaker, who captured hearts in TV soap Emmerdale, had Down’s Syndrome. He died earlier this year from chronic lung disease.
Harry, a nephew of Huddersfield actress Jodie Whittaker, played Leo Dingle.
Now his mum Katie, 36, of Skelmanthorpe, is to join the Purple Posse, a group running to raise money for the Brackenhall-based Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice.
In a statement Katie told how her family stayed in the Snowflake Suite at the hospice’s Russell House after Harry died.
“In what was a difficult time for our family we were supported by Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice who were just amazing,” she said.
“We stayed in the Snowflake Suite for two weeks after Harry had died.
“During this time the care team were incredible in supporting not only me but all of our family, helping with meals, sorting out school packed lunches for my ten-year old Maisy and food for my one-year-old Martha, providing clean towels, overnight accommodation for grandparents and anything else we needed.
“The support we received meant that during such a difficult period I was able to smile, something I never thought would be possible.
“I will be proud to be supporting the hospice in next year’s London Marathon in memory of Harry.”
The Snowflake Suite is a purpose-built family suite which is used by families after a child has died.
It contains a small sitting room, kitchen, bathroom and parent’s bedroom and a separate specially cooled bedroom for the child.
Families can stay with their children with support from the care team. Relatives and friends can also visit and stay if families wish.
When Harry died, Emmerdale cast and crew paid a poignant tribute in the closing credits as a picture of Harry appeared with the words: “To Harry, with love.”
Afterwards Mark Charnock, who played his on-screen dad Marlon, wrote on Twitter: “Our hero. We were lucky to know you and hear your laugh. You lit up our lives, dearest, loveliest Harry.”
Proud aunt Jodie, who played Beth Latimer in hit TV drama series Broadchurch, has previously spoken lovingly of Harry.
As an ambassador for the charity Mencap she spoke of her wish that children with Down’s Syndrome could grow up in a safe world free of prejudice.
Another runner signed up for the marathon is former Elland man Mike Dunning, 42.
Mike, whose partner lost a daughter aged eight in 1984, said that at the time the nearest children’s hospice was Martin House in Wetherby and they wanted to support facilities closer to home.
Liz Paver, Forget Me Not’s director of fundraising, thanked Mike and Katie for their support and urged anyone else running the London Marathon in April to support the hospice.