BRAVE brother and sister Billy and Leah Hill crossed the finish line with smiles on their faces – and marked the start of a campaign to keep them walking.
The youngsters both have cerebral palsy and without costly operations their condition will worsen and prevent them from walking.
But that didn’t stop them using their walkers plus every last bit of strength and determination to cross the finish line of the Bupa Great South Run mini race.
They were just some of the 25,000 people who took part in the 25th Great South Run weekend, packing Portsmouth with fundraisers and elite athletes.
Their efforts, along with those of proud family and friends who joined them on the course, were just the start of a fundraising drive to help ensure they can have a bright future.
Billy, six, and Leah, eight, of Highclere Avenue, Leigh Park, need surgery costing £23,000 each to remove nerves to help loosen up their muscles.
If the children don’t have the vital treatment, their muscles will continue to tighten and they could end up being confined to a wheelchair.
Family friend and former Amateur Boxing Association super heavyweight boxing champion, Billy Bessey, supported them all the way with his daughter, Billie. ‘Leah comes to my gym and she doesn’t stop smiling,’ Mr Bessey said.
‘There are things she shouldn’t be able to do, yet she still enjoys doing them.
‘This is about helping to give both Leah and Billy a better life.
‘To have two children with this condition means there is so much pressure on the parents.
Billy and Leah’s proud father, Phil Hill, 40, who is their full-time carer, said: ‘This race was for them. For everyone to be here just shows team spirit.
‘It wasn’t until they were four months old that you could see they couldn’t sit up properly, and I knew something was wrong.
‘It’s been really hard for the family.’
Mum Cheryl Sproston, 28, said it was an emotional moment being met with cheers helping her children over the line.
‘I wanted to cry but I held back,’ she said.
‘Something like this makes you very, very proud.’
The siblings were given an added boost when their dad and Mr Bessey, along with members of his boxing club, Team Bessey Boxing, went on to complete the world’s leading 10-mile race yesterday.
It’s anticipated around £5,000 has so far been raised for the operations and the family are planning fundraising events.
A delighted Leah said after her race: ‘It was great being there with my family. I nearly walked all of it on my own.’
Billy added: ‘I was really proud to do it.’
For more coverage if the Great South Run click here.