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Seven-year-old’s impressive feat in support of his heroic little brother

Seven-year-old Blake Downes thinks his little brother, Jack, is a hero.

When Jack entered the world prematurely, at 34 weeks, the newborn wasn’t breathing.

With doctors fighting to save his life, he spent the first six months of his life in hospital.

Until the age of two, Jack wasn’t able to eat food orally, stand or walk, and was placed on oxygen support until the age of three and a half to help his little lungs function properly.

Seven-year-old Blake Downes is aiming to walk 29,500 steps each day until August 21st - equivalent to 900kms - to raise money for Running for Premature Babies Foundation to support his younger brother Jack who lives with Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy.
Camera IconJack, who lives with a type of Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy, spent six months in hospital fighting for life after being born at 34 weeks. Credit: NCA NewsWire

But that hasn’t stopped him, says mum Emily Downes.

“Fast forward to today, when Jack is four; he is running, jumping, climbing, riding his bike and really keeping up with his brother and sister,” she says.

The proud mother said while the journey, which has included weekly to fortnightly therapy since birth, has been long, it’s been made easier by Jack’s “funny and cheeky” personality and determination.

“Jack is the most strong willed, determined little boy, which is why we think he fought so hard to survive in the beginning,” she said.

Seven-year-old Blake Downes is aiming to walk 29,500 steps each day until August 21 – equivalent to 900km – in support of his younger brother Jack, who lives with Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy.
Camera IconSeven-year-old Blake Downes is aiming to walk 29,500 steps each day until August 21 – equivalent to 900km – in support of his younger brother Jack, who lives with Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy. Credit: Supplied
Blake is running to help children like his little brother Jack, who lives with a form of Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy.
Camera IconBlake is running to help children like his little brother Jack, who lives with a form of Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy. Credit: Supplied

Another source of strength for the four-year-old is his big brother, Blake, who has made an impressive commitment to helping raise money for little ones like Jack.

Inspired by his heroic little brother, Blake has been walking or running 29,500 steps each day since March as part of the Running for Premature Babies virtual Kids Fun Run.

The seven-year-old, whose goal was to complete 900km – the distance between where his family lived in Mt Isa and Townsville, where Jack was born – is planning to finish his effort in Sydney on Sunday at the in-person fun run.

Premmies Run
Camera IconRunning for Premature Babies Foundation organiser Sophie Smith with the photos of her Triplets Henry, Jasper and Evan, whom she lost after they were born premature. John Appleyard Credit: News Corp Australia

With the help of his mum, Blake hopes to raise funds for lifesaving equipment in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to help babies like Jack.

Describing the NICU as “the happiest hell on Earth”, Ms Downes said “it’s still a place of celebration, first cuddles, first baths, first feeds, but there are machines in the way of keeping the babies alive”.

While Jack is believed to be living with a type of Hypertonic Cerebral Palsy, the family is still waiting on a proper diagnosis.

They are hoping a second round of genetic testing, which can take up to 4 months, will give them the answers they need, with Ms Downes saying not knowing has been the family’s biggest struggle.

But it hasn’t stopped Jack, who loves a kick of the footy and tackling his big brother.

The preschooler has also established one major goal: to play sport like Blake.

More than $5 million has been raised for lifesaving equipment and research by Ms Smith’s charity.
Camera IconMore than $5 million has been raised for lifesaving equipment and research by Ms Smith’s charity. Credit: Supplied

“Jack hopes to run as fast as Blake one day,” Ms Downes said.

Running for Premature Babies was founded in 2007 by Sophie Smith after she and her late husband lost their triplets, who were born prematurely.

More than $5 million has been raised by the charity for lifesaving equipment and research, helping give the 500 babies who are born prematurely in Australia each week a better chance at life.

“There is so much more work to do and we would all love more people to take on a challenge like Blake has done,” Ms Downes said.

The team at Running for Premature Babies is calling on Australians to get involved on Sunday, August 21 with fun runs in Melbourne, Sydney and on the Gold Coast.

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