PARALYMPIC bronze medallist Dave Henson beamed with pride as he watched hundreds of children take on a fun run for their school over the weekend.
The double-amputee athlete was the guest of honour at the event on Saturday, blasting the starting horn to begin the action.
Children, toddlers and parents tackled either a 1,000m or 2,000m course around the playing field opposite Whiteley’s Meadowside Leisure Centre.
The race was all in aid of Whiteley Primary School’s massive fundraising drive this year to pay for new iPads and computer equipment for the pupils.
And Dave, whose legs were blown off by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011, was blown away by the support.
The former soldier, who lives in Whiteley, said: ‘This has been incredible to see. I live here, my children go to school here and I hope to spend the rest of my life here.
‘So to come and see 300 children absolutely smashing it on a park in a fun run is pretty incredible.’
Most of the youngsters taking part were from Whiteley Primary School.
Among the runners were pals Joey Qunn and Harry Jones, both nine.
Awestruck Joey had a chance to meet Dave and hold some of his medals – including his Paralympic bronze and Para World Athletic Championship bronze.
‘They were really cool,’ said Joey. ‘They were actually pretty heavy.’
Keen runner Harry said he regularly does cross-country routes on Portsdown Hill but found the big crowds at the park run pretty intimidating.
‘It was actually quite scary, everyone was cheering and there were lots of people,’ he said. ‘But I did enjoy it.’
Jack James, nine, was running with sister Evie, and friends Junior Davies, nine, and his younger brother, Cullen, seven.
He said: ‘I came straight from football to do this. It was really fun. It was pretty crowded though so it was quite hard to get through.’
Junior added: ‘It was awesome. I really enjoyed it.’
The event was organised by the Friends of Whiteley Primary School, which will be represented at the 2019 London Marathon by parent Dan Hughes, 37, for the first time.
His wife Lindsay, who co-ordinated the dash, hailed the event a runaway success and hoped it would drum up about £4,000.
She said: ‘It’s been overwhelming. I knew it was going to be good but I had no idea how popular it was going to be.
‘I thought we might get 200 people. But we had to cap it at 300 because so many people wanted to join.
‘This money is going to go such a long way to help our school develop and grow.’
Friends of Whiteley Primary School will be staging their second fundraiser next month. It will be a black tie ball taking place at the Solent Hotel on March 2.
In all, their campaign this year aims to raise £5,000 to pay for new pupil iPads and an ICT suite.