A year-long set of charity challenges for Chippenham man

This Is Wiltshire: Andy Knight, who is raising funds for the Springboard special needs pre-school, Chippenham, which has cared for his friend Russell Hodges’ daughter Eva Andy Knight, who is raising funds for the Springboard special needs pre-school, Chippenham, which has cared for his friend Russell Hodges’ daughter Eva

Andy Knight describes himself as an average Joe but he will be pushing himself to take on 12 arduous challenges in 12 months to help a Chippenham charity dear to his heart.

His close friends’ one-year-old daughter Eva Hodges has Downs Syndrome and is regularly supported by Springboard Opportunity Group, the special needs pre-school in Lodge Road.

Mr Knight has already raised more than a fifth of his £5,000 goal for Springboard. His challenges include completing six marathons in six days.

Mr Knight, 34, said: “I’m not your typical endurance athlete, I tend to wobble a bit when I run.

“I have a few too many vices like alcohol and crisps and weigh in at about 14 stone.”

But he has not been sitting idle. Last May he completed his first ultra marathon, running/walking 100km from London to Brighton in 17 hours.

He said he was blown away by the generosity of friends, family and corporate sponsors.

“Everyone would ask me, what next, and that’s when I had a brainwave,” he said.

“Why keep tackling these challenges as individual events? Instead I could run more closer together and use training from one to propel me into the next.”

Mr Knight, who works for community services in east London, started the year with a 44-mile Country to Capital Ultra Marathon and plans to take part in the 50k London Ultra Marathon next month.

Eva was born just two weeks after Mr Knight’s own baby girl Isabelle.

He is a lifelong friend of Eva’s dad Russell Hodges, who lives in the Frogwell area.

Mr Knight said: “Sadly, whilst I was celebrating, they could only watch as Eva required a number of tests for something Russell and Jenny had not been expecting.

“Having to understand the complexities of Downs Syndrome on top of becoming parents for the first time put a huge emotional strain on Eva’s family.

“Now one, Eva is developing well and is a very smiley and beautiful girl, thanks in no small part to the Springboard Opportunity Group.”

Mum Jenny Hodges, 32, said: “It’s not something that comes naturally to Andy, he has to train long and hard. We’re so grateful to him because fundraising is hard and it’s nice to know we can keep going. Eva loves Springboard and the staff are really good.”

Springboard supports babies to five-year-olds with a range of disabilities. It helps about 50 families a year from Box to Cricklade. It focuses on helping children with speech and language needs.

His blog page can be found at http://averagejoechallenge2013.blogspot.com. Donations can be made at http://mydonate.bt.com/ fundraisers/averagejoe

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