Couple to host fundraiser for stillbirth charity after heartbreak

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An Amber Valley couple whose son was stillborn are putting their best foot forward to fundraise for a charity supporting families like theirs.

Helen Pope and Mark Britland, who live in Loscoe, lost baby Austin earlier this year due to developmental disorder in the womb.

Helen Pope and Mark Britland are fundraising for national stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands with the help of the Smalley Road Runners club.

Helen Pope and Mark Britland are fundraising for national stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands with the help of the Smalley Road Runners club.

Helen said: “It had been a lovely pregnancy, then at our 20-week scan at Royal Derby Hospital, we discovered that our baby had extreme shortening and bowing of all of the long bones, in keeping with lethal skeletal dysplasia.

“It meant he was likely to die in the antenatal or very shortly after birth, so we made the very difficult decision to give birth early.”

After a 36-hour labour, Austin was born on Monday, July 10, just over 21 weeks gestation.

At one of the most difficult moments a parent could face, Helen and Mark were grateful for the assistance of specially trained staff and extra hospital facilities funded by national stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands.

Helen said: “The midwives were all absolutely fantastic and everything supplied by Derby Sands was so special and means so much.”

The charity provided them with important information drawn from other couples’ experiences, and a memory box to help them process their own.

Helen said: “It was filled with tiny knitted clothes, beautiful tiny blankets, teddy bears, and a candle with the words ‘Even the smallest of feet have the power to leave lasting footprints upon this world’.

“The midwife took photographs of us with Austin, gave us the memory card so we could print them, and took his hand and foot prints.”

Following their stay in hospital, the couple have added Austin’s name to the butterfly sculpture in the dedicated Sands memorial garden at Markeaton Crematorium, but felt they wanted to do more - and they were not alone.

Helen said: “Smalley Road Runners—where we are both members—raised some money through a cake sale and tombola at Shipley Park Parkrun. They wanted to donate it to us as some support in this horrific time. We were over whelmed by the generosity and rather than running away, felt we should embrace it.”

By coincidence, Shipley Park was due to host the annual Matthew Walker 10K Christmas Pudding Run on Sunday, November 19 - the weekend of Austin’s original due date.

About 70 members of the Smalley Road Runners will be lacing up their trainers to raise funds for Sands.

To aid their recovery, boost the total further and reach out to non-runners, Helen and Mark will also be hosting a lunch event at Horsley Woodhouse Village Hall from 12.30-4pm the same day.

Anyone can pay £10 for chilli or a curry, a jacket potato, cake, a glass of wine, and listen to local singer Sophie Dangerfield.

There will also be a £1 entry raffle to win prizes ranging from first class train tickets to John Lewis Vouchers, and an auction featuring lots such as a framed Manchester United shirt signed by Paul Pogba, a week in a villa in Portugal, Derby County tickets, and the chance to meet stage star Gareth Gates.

For more details and tickets for the event and raffle, go to

Smalley Road Runners will get the ball rolling with a Shipley Park Parkrun takeover with another tombola and cake sale on Saturday, November 4.

Helen said: “Sands provide a lot of support to anybody who has been affected by the death of a baby and promote research to reduce the loss of babies’ lives.

“The support they have provided has been invaluable, and we want to ensure they can continue that good work.”

n To donate to the campaign, go to