Six years after the death of teenage athlete Kieran Maxwell from a rare form of bone cancer, his family have set their sights on a special fundraising target in his memory. PETER BARRON reports…

WHEN 18-year-old Kieran Maxwell lost his incredibly brave fight against a rare form of cancer in June 2017, his mum, Nicola, announced the news by posting the saddest, yet most positive, message on Facebook.

“Unfortunately, today, at 5.26am, Kieran gained his wings,” she wrote. “He passed away peacefully in his sleep. We are going to continue Kieran’s wish of providing research into Ewing’s Sarcoma through his charity.”

Six years on, that promise has been kept so well that it is hoped Kieran’s fund will have reached the £60,000 mark by August 8, which would have been his 25th birthday.

At the time of writing, the fund stands at more than £53,000, but money is coming in all the time, and at least another £2,000 is expected to be raised at the latest Kieran Maxwell Track and Field Open, at Middlesbrough Sports Village, on April 16.

Organised by Darlington Harriers, it is a fitting way to continue to remember Kieran, a talented sprinter, from Heighington, near Darlington, who lost his left leg after being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in October 2010.

As well as athletics, he took to gymnastics as part of his rehabilitation, winning gold in the Wheelchair Acrobatics Section of the NDP British Gymnastics Acrobatic National Championships. He also took part in the mini Great North Run while undergoing chemotherapy, and his sporting exploits were recognised at The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards.

Six years after his initial diagnosis, he was told his illness was terminal, and the former Hummersknott Academy pupil set up the Kieran Maxwell Legacy charity in the hope of funding research into the disease.

Kieran’s mum, Nicola, said yesterday: “We have no overheads, so every penny raised goes to research, so it would be lovely to get to the £60,000 mark by his birthday.”

The fifth annual track and field open, in Kieran’s honour, is sponsored by CKJ Interiors, Bevan VAT Consultancy, New Levels Coaching, and T.B. Tarn.

A wide variety of events are open to all ages, with entry priced at £9, or £5 for under-elevens, and all competitors receive a commemorative medal.

In addition, a new memorial badge – designed in a competition among pupils at Hummersknott Academy – will be on sale.

“We’ll never forget how special he was, and it brings a lot of comfort to know that other people haven’t forgotten him,” said Nicola. “It would mean the world to us to see a good turnout at his memorial event.”

Darlington Harriers committee member, Mark Tallon, added: “Time is flying by, but club members are still keen to remember a very special young man.”

STILL on the subject of inspirational young athletes, congratulations to 14-year-old wheelchair-racer Ollie Porter, who continues to rack up the honours.

Ollie, of Hurworth-on-Tees, has been featured several times on this page over the years, most recently in December when he was selected for the England Paralympic Talent Programme.

Ollie, who trains in Leeds, has now been named Young Disability Sports Person of the Year at the Leeds Sports Awards 2023. Well done, Ollie.

The Northern Echo:

STICKING to the power of sport, congratulations are also in order for the members of Blackwell Grange Golf Club, in Darlington, for their efforts in raising funds for Prostate Cancer UK.

Last summer, this page was used to promote a prostate cancer testing day, organised at the golf club by Darlington Lions.

As well as 129 free PSA tests being carried out – potentially saving lives – I’m delighted to report that £6,703.56 has now been handed over to the charity. Last year’s golf club captain, Richard Parker, is pictured below being congratulated by Sedgefield MP Paul Howell, who took part in the event.

The Northern Echo:

WHAT an extraordinary response there’s been to last month’s story, in which I revealed that Darlington’s best-loved shop, Guru Boutique, is to close after more than 50 years.

Owner Beryl Hankin is now appealing for customers, past and present, to share their Guru memories. Photographs of Guru purchases, or favourite anecdotes, can be dropped in at the shop in Blackwellgate, or posted.

Beryl. pictured below with colleagues Tony Smith and Colin Harrison, plans to arrange a shop window display of some of the highlights, and goodie bags will go to a random selection of customers taking part.

Meanwhile, plans are progressing for the next phase of the Guru story. When the shop closes in June, the brand will live on in an enhanced online business, and Beryl is hoping to maintain the personal connection with her “Guru Tribe” by taking a stall in the market on Saturdays.

“I’d miss everyone too much otherwise,” she says.

The Northern Echo:

IT was nice to see three of Darlington’s longest-serving councillors awarded the freedom of the town last week.

My dealings with Heather Scott, Doris Jones, and Dorothy Long go back to my days as a young reporter with The Northern Echo almost 40 years ago.

All three have always been passionate about the town, approachable, fair, and helpful – the personification of good, local councillors. The honour is very well deserved.

The Northern Echo:

FINALLY, a postscript to last week’s column about the 14th anniversary of the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence, and the shocking revelation that TV licence demands are still being sent to her empty home.

The story went national and led to a prompt phone call from the BBC’s Director of Corporate Affairs, Alice Macandrew. She wanted to stress that the “unacceptable” failure to stop the licence demands was being taken extremely seriously at the highest level of the BBC.

I put Alice in touch with Joan, pictured below, and a personal apology has been made, along with a promise of a thorough investigation to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Last week’s column also highlighted Joan’s plan to investigate the possibility of the empty two-bedroomed house, in Heworth, being used for a charitable purpose. I’m pleased to say there's been progress behind the scenes on that front too.

The Northern Echo: