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Café owner Steve Holding to undertake London Marathon in aid of Royal National Institute of Blind People
Steve Holding, with his daughter Ruby. Steve is running the London Marathon to raise money for the Royal National Institute of Blind People
LIKE many eight-year-old girls, little Ruby Holding has a pink wrist watch.
But press the top right button and Ruby's watch will suddenly announce the time.
This “talking watch” is just one of the many new gadgets Ruby is learning to use since losing her sight last year because of a brain tumour.
One of her favourite new “toys” is a Daisy Player. Similar to a large CD player, this has large, user-friendly buttons on the top, allowing Ruby to navigate the machine with ease and listen to stories.
“It’s great when we are travelling to hospital in Leeds or at bedtime; she gets lots of comfort from stories,” says dad Steve when we meet at the family home in South Bank.
Ruby is also learning to touch-type using a laptop donated by charity Victa (Visually Impaired Children Taking Action), guided by a speaking-voice software package called “Jaws”.
The software alone costs £600; the Daisy player £300.
Resources for the blind tend to be expensive, says Steve, which is one reason he decided to take the plunge and run the London Marathon for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB).
His training began in February — just short five-minute sprints to the nearby Pig & Pastry on Bishopthorpe Road, the popular café he runs with this wife, Julia. Now he extends the morning run to take in a loop around Terry’s and can stretch to 10km (six miles).
At 26 miles, the marathon will be a bigger effort. “I will probably jog and walk it on the day,” admits Steve. “My aim is just to get through it!”
Julia, Ruby, her big sister Hattie, 11, and brother Sam, 15, will be cheering from the sidelines on Sunday, April 21.
The previous Sunday, the Pig & Pastry will also open for business with all proceeds going to the RNIB.
Steve is also selling raffle tickets for a picture of York Minster by local artist Andres Jaroslavsky, of the Corner Gallery, again in aid of the RNIB.
The charity has been a great resource for the family since Ruby lost her sight last year after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour, choroid plexus carcinoma.
“It was a grade-four brain tumour and very rare,” says Steve. “She has had three surgeries, seven courses of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation.
“We are waiting for the next MRI scan to see how effective it has been, but the doctors are very optimistic and hopeful.
“We are really confident. Before Ruby was diagnosed, she was really ill. She’s a lot better now.”
Ruby is having schooling at home but still attends Scarcroft Primary one afternoon a week, which she hopes to increase after Easter.
Steve said his young daughter had been remarkable throughout her treatment, rising to her new challenges which include learning Braille. After Easter, she hopes to start piano lessons. “That has been very reassuring,” says Steve. “She hasn’t felt bogged down by all the learning and loves doing well at all these new things.”
Ruby lost her hair through chemo and wears brightly-coloured buffs instead of scarves.
“She talks about what colour her hair might be when it grows back – she heard a story that someone’s hair once grew back purple!”
The family haven’t lost their sense of humour. When Steve began his fundraising drive, he posed for a series of pictures wearing a string vest, Seventies-style shorts and a headband – more Rab C Nesbitt than Mo Farrah.
He jokes he’ll be listening to a “walking tour of London” on his iPod. “And coming up now, on the left, is the Tower of London,” he mimics in a posh tour-guide voice.
He says running has been a great stress buster. “I love it now! I am going to keep it up. I run 5k before work and it makes me feel full of beans.”
He said Ruby thinks it’s great he is running the marathon for the RNIB – she and Hattie will be fundraising too, making and selling cupcakes and brownies at Scarcroft school on the Friday before the marathon.
His wife, Julia, has already raised £11,000 for Yorkshire-based children’s cancer charity Candlelighters; some of that was raised by her running a 10k with friends.
Steve is planning to cycle 200 miles from Edinburgh to York later in the summer for Candlelighters. He said: “They fund play specialists, organise trips and make hospitals a better place for kids.”
* If you would like to boost Steve’s appeal for the RNIB please visit his Just Giving page: justgiving.com/Steve-Holding
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