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West Suffolk: Veteran runner inspired to join “Team PP” in memory of family’s “blue-eyed little girl”

14:00 10 April 2014

Phoebe Knibbs

Phoebe Knibbs

Archant

A family’s heartbreaking loss of their “beautiful blue-eyed little girl” has inspired a veteran runner to dedicate his efforts at this weekend’s London Marathon to a noble cause.

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John Boxall will become the first-ever runner for the Save Babies Through Screening Foundation UK when he runs the race in honour of Phoebe May Knibbs, who died in February last year aged just 21 months.

The west Suffolk toddler’s life was claimed by Krabbe Disease, a rare condition that affects roughly one in 100,000 children born in the UK. Babies born with the illness usually die before they reach two years old.

Phoebe was affectionately known as PP by her doting family, and mum Hannah has been tirelessly fundraising in recent times to raise awareness of Krabbe Disease and money for the foundation, which is more commonly known as Save Babies UK.

Hannah completed last year’s Great South Run with five friends, and family friend Mr Boxall has now become the latest member of “Team PP” ahead of his seventh London Marathon.

He had already earned a place in the race through the ballot, but said it was “an honour” to now be running in Phoebe’s memory.

He added: “I couldn’t think of a better or more deserving cause and I immediately felt part of a small but committed and caring team – Team PP as we’re known.

“When the going gets tough, those last few miles will be all the more worthwhile.”

Phoebe was born in May 2011 and lived in Kedington, near Haverhill, with her mum and big sister Amelia, who is now six years old.

After mum Hannah raised concerns that Phoebe was not developing properly, consultants initially thought she had cerebral palsy, but after months of testing Phoebe was diagnosed with Krabbe Disease, leaving her family facing up to the fact she was unlikely to reach her second birthday.

Despite the offer of hospice care, Hannah was determined to keep Phoebe in her home and installed all the necessary medical equipment at her house, with Phoebe’s grandmother Ann Naylor moving in to help with the care.

After putting up a brave fight for another four months, including undergoing an operation, Phoebe passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 23, 2013.

Hannah called Phoebe her “beautiful blue-eyed little girl”, adding: “She now shines bright, my angel, my star, my world.

“What I’d give to hold her, smell her. But I know she is at peace, disease free, and one day I will see those beautiful blue eyes again.”

Phoebe’s grandmother, Mrs Naylor, who works as a police officer in Bury St Edmunds, added: “It was just devastating to be told your granddaughter has got six months to live. It was horrific for the whole family. She was such a dear little girl, she was so beautiful.

“They’re just a fantastic little charity. We want to highlight their good work and make other people aware. If we can prevent one child from going through what Phoebe went through, and one set of parents, then that’s our job done.”

More than £1,800 has been pledged to Mr Boxall’s marathon effort so far, with Phoebe’s family “overwhelmed” by the support.

To sponsor Mr Boxall visit www.justgiving.com/johnboxall.

To find out more about Save Babies UK visit www.savebabiesuk.org/

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