24 May 2018

“Mum, can I come into your bed?”

Five-year-old Blake would shout across the hallway, from his bedroom.

He’d trudge over to his Mum’s room, jump onto the bed, snuggle up close to her — sucking his thumb with one hand, and stroking her eyelashes with the other.

Picking out a particular favourite memory of Blake is hard

“I miss those mornings so much,” says his mum Elaine Holdsworth, who with the support of seven other family members and friends, is taking on an amazing eight-stage challenge in her little boy’s memory.

From taking part in a gruelling obstacle race dressed as wrestlers, to running a half marathon in aid of a hedgehog hospital, each event they are taking on reflects something Blake loved – and would surely have put a smile on his face, too.

Blake Holdsworth
Always smiling

Adored by his family and friends, Blake was such a bright and cheerful soul, with beautiful old-fashioned manners that endeared him to everyone he met.

“Picking out a particular favourite memory of Blake is hard,” Elaine says, “because they were all so special to me.”

I even miss watching him sleep

It’s the simple things she misses most; like hearing his voice; telling her how much he loves her and seeing him smile and laugh.

“I even miss watching him sleep, just knowing he’s there,” she says.

Elaine and Mark are determined that his six-month old sister Alana will grow up with Blake in her heart, too. They talk about him to her all the time and have kept many of his toys and games for her to play with when she’s older.

Big brother Blake
Big brother, Blake

“She looks just like him, but they’re so very different,” Elaine says.

It’s an important family ritual, too, to light a candle for Blake every evening.

When Blake was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2015, his treatment began straight away – before there was much time to register the shock. Doctors told the family there would be six months of intensive chemotherapy and three years of maintenance treatment to follow.

Everyone’s focus was on supporting little Blake to get better. The treatment he stoically endured was tough, but initially he responded really, really well.

Blake was two years through his chemo when he became seriously ill. He was almost halfway there when he was rushed into intensive care and put on full life support.

Heavy-hearted and scared, Elaine and her husband, Mark prayed that Blake’s little body would endure the intense treatment. But his illness was caused by an uncontrolled growth of white blood cells, also known as Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH), and his body struggled to respond.

Happy as pie
Happy as pie

Elaine and Mark’s perfect boy died on November 30, 2017. He was seven years old.

Elaine said simply: “Our entire world has been shattered.”

It’s impossible to mend a broken heart, but making Blake’s memory a part of new things, has helped Elaine, Mark and their family to pick up the pieces.

“It’s important to do something with a focus. A positive focus,” explains Elaine.

So, over the course of 2018, Elaine, who lives in Wakefield, and seven other members of the family are doing The Big 8 to mark a year in which Blake would have turned eight.

They are taking part in eight challenges, which each have a special connection to Blake’s life. Throughout it, they’ll be raising money for Histio UK — a charity which supports families who have a child with HLH.

“All of the challenges will be challenging for us,” laughs Elaine.

“None of us are athletes in any shape or form. We’re not runners, walkers, swimmers nor cyclists. We are truly pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.”

Our entire world was shattered

In the long run, the Holdsworth family hope to create a charity of their own, Because of Blake. For now though, Elaine simply wants to make Blake proud.

Spurred on by thinking about everything her brave little boy went through,“He always did so with a big smile on his face,” says Elaine.

“It makes me want to go through this challenge with a smile on my face, too.”

##Because of Blake – The Big 8 Challenge

Cyclothon

Blake on bicycle
Blake loved days out on his bicycle

Blake was given a special bead of courage for every procedure, test and treatment he went through. He earned 1,318 beads in total, strung together to represent his unbroken spirit and determination.

Courage beads
Lots and lots of courage beads

To kick off their challenge in March, the Big 8 pledged to cycle half a kilometre per bead – 659 kilometers in total, between them – on two static bikes.

“We planned to do this in 12 hours, but managed to do it in 11!” smiles Elaine.

Swim-the-Channel-thon

Blake in pool
Champion

Blake loved learning to swim and despite missing lessons during his treatment, was determined to swim an entire length – a mission he accomplished in summer 2017.

We were so, so proud of him

“He was over the moon when he reached the other side,” says Elaine.

“We were so, so proud of him.”

The Big 8 took on a swimming challenge in April. They swam the length of the English Channel — 21 miles – in fewer than nine hours at their local pool.

**The Three Yorkshire Peaks **

Blake smiling
Elaine misses this smile everyday

This event falls on a day with special significance – Blake’s eighth birthday on June 2.

To celebrate his life, team Because of Blake is taking on a 24-mile walking challenge – The Three Yorkshire Peaks – on spectacular course around the Dales.

“We wanted to do something extra special,” explains Elaine, “so we chose the Three Yorkshire Peaks, a challenge where everyone can be involved.”

Total Warrior

WWE
A dream come true - watching WWE live

WWE wrestling was one of Blake’s greatest passions.

“He absolutely loved wrestling, and knew all of the wrestlers moves and entrance music,” says Elaine.

He would save his pocket money to buy new WWE figures.

“I loved seeing the joy on his face when he finally had enough money, but then the dilemma and confusion that followed when he eventually had to choose one,” smiles his mum.

So Elaine and the team are taking on Total Warrior Challenge in Leeds – dressed as Blake’s favourite WWE heroes. They’ll encounter 25 obstacles and negotiate 100 tonnes of mud, as they tackle the course on June 24.

**The National Three Peaks **

Big 8
The big 8 in all their glory

Blake threw himself into life, inspiring the Big 8 to take on something really big in July.

This challenge involves climbing the highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales, with the aim of achieving 23 miles of climbing – and 462 of driving – in under 24 hours.

“It’s an epic one,” laughs Elaine.

Total Wipeout Obstacle Course (TBC)

“Blake loved obstacle courses!”

Although he could never complete one, he loved watching the Total Wipeout series with Mum.

“This is a challenge that Blake would’ve loved to participate in,” Elaine says.

Barnsley Hospital Walk

Mum and son
Mum and son

Blake had always lived in Wakefield but was proud to say he was a Barnsley lad – so this summer, the Big 8 is planning a walk to the town where he was born.

It’s a 12-mile walk between the two places and they’ll be heading to visit the Barnsley hospital where their little champion was born. The team are doing it tied together!

The Hedgehog Half Marathon

The Big 8’s final challenge is a special one.

Elaine will never forget the day when, out on a shopping trip, Blake begged her to stop and look at a hedgehog rescue charity stall.

“I said we didn’t have time and for the rest of the day, he was very quiet,” she explains.

“When I asked him what was wrong, he broke down crying saying he really wanted to save the hedgehogs.”

After Blake died, Elaine had pangs of regret over how Blake had felt so sad. The collection at his funeral was donated to the RSPB, which runs a safe haven for wild hedgehogs scheme.

The Big 8 will be taking part in the Hedgehog Half Marathon at Normanby Hall Country Park, Lincolnshire, in October. Proceeds from the event will help raise funds for a hedgehog protection charity.

The Big 8 crew
The big 8 crew after the cyclothon

Visit the ‘Because of Blake’ Just Giving page to donate.