The team that runs for premature babies

Fundraising for their lost boys: Sophie and Ash Smith with their sons, Harvey and Owen.
Fundraising for their lost boys: Sophie and Ash Smith with their sons, Harvey and Owen. Photo: runningforprematurebabies.com

When Sophie Smith and her husband Ash lost their prematurely born triplets in 2006, the Randwick couple were devastated, but determined to use their tragedy to help others.

The couple formed Running For Premature Babies, which is the top fundraising team in this year's Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, which will be held on Sunday May 18.

The team has raised more than $120,000 towards funding much-needed research into prematurity.

Doing it for the kids: members of the team in a previous marathon.
Doing it for the kids: members of the team in a previous marathon. Photo: runningforprematurebabies.com

For Mrs Smith, the effort gives meaning to the short lives of her triplets: Henry, who survived for just one hour; Evan, who lived for 10 days; and Jasper, who was alive for 58 days.

"My little boys lived for a very short time but their legacy will live on forever,'' she said.

When they formed the team eight years ago, the couple simply wanted to raise $20,000 for a humidicrib at the Royal Hospital for Women in Randwick. But runners have gone on to raise more than $1 million for 26 pieces of lifesaving equipment to help the 1000 premature babies for whom the hospital cares every year.

Running for Premature Babies has grown into more than just a training group that raises money – many of the runners have been personally affected by having a premature baby.

"Many people have joined in order to run in the memory of their own babies, who they have lost,'' Mrs Smith said. Another member of the annual team was born at 24 weeks herself.

The Smiths, who have gone on to have two healthy sons – Owen, born in 2008, and Harvey, born in 2010 – will use the money raised this year to sponsor a research fellow at the Royal Hospital for Women's Newborn Care Centre.

The head of centre, Associate Professor Kei Lui, said there was a need for deeper understanding of prematurity.

"There are many areas of prematurity that we'd like to understand much better, and to improve the outcomes of these babies, so to be given the opportunity to employ a dedicated research fellow to remove some of the mysteries surrounding prematurity is a dream come true,'' he said.

Each of the 12,000 entrants in the 21.1km Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon raises money for charity, with causes ranging from mental illness to prostate cancer. This year almost $500,000 has been raised by runners. 

To support the team, or to make a donation, visit the Running For Premature Babies website