Southsea woman joins family to walk, run and cycle 500 miles in memory of her baby

Sisters Kelly O'Neill, Charla Grant and Alex O'Neill with the group that joined them for the final mile of their challenge. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (271019-3)
Sisters Kelly O'Neill, Charla Grant and Alex O'Neill with the group that joined them for the final mile of their challenge. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (271019-3)
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A WOMAN who has been joined by her family in walking 500 miles in just one month was spurred on to complete the challenge by the memory of her child.

Charla Grant, 37, from Southsea, lost her baby Olive five years ago when she died the day after being born.

Mark and Kerry Wilmer with Charla and Joe Grant. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (271019-2)

Mark and Kerry Wilmer with Charla and Joe Grant. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (271019-2)

Now, she and her family have taken on a collective 500-mile challenge for Mama Academy, which aims to make combating stillbirth and baby loss a more prominent issue for the NHS.

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On Sunday, Charla completed the last mile of her challenge, walking from the Coffee Cup in Eastney to Blue Reef Aquarium in Clarence Esplanade.

Joined by more than 60 family members and friends, she says she was ‘amazed' by the support, as she fights for stillbirth and child loss to be more accepted points of discussion in society.

From left, sisters Kelly O'Neill, Charla Grant and Joe Grant. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (271019-4)

From left, sisters Kelly O'Neill, Charla Grant and Joe Grant. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (271019-4)

She said: ‘When you lose a child you don't really get the opportunity to talk about it all that much.

‘It still isn’t talked about enough and that makes it harder for parents to open up about what they’ve been through.

‘October is Baby Loss Awareness Month and this challenge gave me time to reflect on everything that’s happened.’

Charla and her husband Joe, also 37, were able to talk about it openly at the time, but she knows not everyone may have that opportunity.

While the challenge was set by Mama Academy, Charla has also founded her own group called the Grateful Hearts Club, which gives mums who have lost children a way to connect with one another and talk about their experiences.

‘It’s taken a long time for me to get to a stage where I can talk about it confidently,’ she said.

‘Losing a child is something that takes a lot of time to process, but parents want nothing more than to make their children proud.

‘I hope we’ve been able to do that today.’

Kelly O’Neill, Charla’s sister, added: ‘I think my sister has struggled but it’s amazing that this tragedy has brought people together.

‘I’m so proud of her and the whole family for completing the challenge.’