Anyone visiting the house of Sophie Smith can tell that she loves being a mum.
Children’s artwork covers the kitchen and almost every wall in the house is adorned with photos of her five boys.
What most visitors wouldn’t know is that Sophie lost her first three boys – triplets Henry, Evan and Jasper – due to complications from their premature births in 2006.
The heartbreaking story of Henry, Jasper and Evan was featured on Essential Baby three years ago. It’s a remarkable read.
Sophie’s story, however, is not only one of tragedy. Not long after funeral of her last remaining son at the time, Jasper, she was ‘contemplating the terrible few months ahead’ and wondering what on earth she was going to do to fill her time. She was on maternity leave, expecting to be up to her neck in dirty nappies and crying babies, but suddenly she was in an empty, quiet house.
I had to do something to channel my grief, something important to keep their spirits alive.
Sophie, formerly a teacher, says she “had to do something to channel her grief, something important to keep their spirits alive.”
She used to love running; so her husband suggested she take up the sport again. From there, an idea of running a half-marathon in Henry, Jasper and Evan's memory was born, with the intention of raising money for the Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick.
Somehow, Sophie was able to put one foot in front of the other, and organised a team to run in that half-marathon and four more, so far raising more than $520,000 for the ‘Henry, Jasper & Evan Smith Trust Fund’ for life-saving equipment for the Royal’s NICU. Sophie’s team, Running For Premature babies, was the largest organised team entry in last year’s Sydney Morning Herald Half-marathon, with 215 team members running to help save premature babies.
This year she aims for 250 runners, so they can raise enough money for two high-frequency ventilators for critically ill premature babies. Such machines cost $70,000 each.
“It’s about giving recognition,” says Sophie. “A handful are running in memory of babies they’ve lost, others are running to celebrate babies who have survived. Many join purely because they are touched by the lives of my precious little boys.”
The team event has other positive effects too. All participants receive free fortnightly training sessions with a professional exercise physiologist, Mandi O’Sullivan-Jones, as well as weekly interval training sessions and a uniform. The coaches donate their time to help and the group receives sponsorship by major brands like Running Bare and Tommee Tippee.
Some participants have never run before and thrive in the supportive environment, gaining fitness and losing weight. Some are experienced runners, and in 2011 the team won the SMH trophy for being the fastest of all the Charity Teams in the race!
Sophie says that her own times get slower every year, perhaps because she’s gone on to give birth to two more boys, Owen (3 and a half) and Harvey (12 months).
Sophie says that Owen has a special connection with the triplets and celebrates their birthdays every year with a birthday cake – his idea – which he helps mum make.
It’s a simple symbol of how much Sophie and her family embrace the positive aspects of their lives. “Being sad won’t bring [the boys] back,” she says.
But not only will Henry, Evan and Jasper not be forgotten, their legacy will help hundreds of other babies with the ten humidicribs and neo-natal monitors already donated via the charity.
As Sophie says, “To make your mark on the world you don’t need to have been here a long time.”