Dedicated dad’s Yorkshire Dales challenge for NHS charity appeal

Ashley in his RHCC t-shirt and AliceAshley in his RHCC t-shirt and Alice
Ashley in his RHCC t-shirt and Alice
A DEDICATED dad whose daughter was born eight weeks prematurely will tackle a hugely hilly hike to raise money for the “comfortable and welcoming” hospital facility that cared for her.

Alice Hitchens was due to be an extra special Christmas delivery for parents Ashley and Nicola, but arrived prematurely in early October 2019 weighing just 4lb 9oz.

The tiny tot spent the first five weeks of her life on the neonatal unit at Rotherham Hospital, with pneumonia and needing high-flow oxygen to help her breathe and additional support to feed.

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Now Alice is a strong and healthy four-year-old, proud dad Ashley is tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge to raise funds for Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity’s Tiny Toes appeal.

Ashley and Alice in the neo-natal wardAshley and Alice in the neo-natal ward
Ashley and Alice in the neo-natal ward

Ashley, from Rawmarsh, said: “The staff on the neonatal unit were amazing but it felt incredibly hard not being able to care for her in the way we hoped and to take her home.

“I had to leave Alice and Nicola on the unit when I returned to work, which was heart-wrenching, even though I knew they were in good hands.

“But life on the unit soon became our 'new normal' and I’d go to see her before and after work.

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“We had everything we needed and, although some of the facilities were dated, it was comfortable, the staff were welcoming and we were grateful to be close to Alice.”

The Yorkshire Three Peaks is a 24-mile round trip which challenges people to reach the summits of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleboroughall in the Yorkshire Dales National Park in 12 hours.

Ashley said: “I’ve signed up to say 'thank you' to the NHS for caring for Alice and to do something helpful for other families going through what we did.”

The Tiny Toes appeal was launched in August 2023 and aims to raise £150,000 for the refurbishment of the neo-natal unit which has not been upgraded in 40 years.

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Head of fundraising Rachael Dawes said: “We had such incredible feedback from last year’s hikers and can’t wait to see another intrepid team take part for our Tiny Toes appeal again.

“We hope Ashley inspires an even bigger cohort this year.”

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