Buncrana pier tragedy mum Louise James in heartfelt thanks after Belfast City Marathon effort
Thousands take to city streets in event's 35th anniversary year
The Londonderry mother who lost her partner, mother, sister and two sons in a drowning tragedy in Donegal paid tribute to those who supported her and her fundraising efforts at the Belfast City Marathon.
Around 18,000 people took part in the May Day event which included a fun run, walk and 26.2mile race in what was the marathon's 35th year.
Kenyan Joel Kipsang Kositany was the first to cross the finish in a time of 2.17.39. It was the third time he won the race.
While Laura Graham from Kilkeel came second in the women's race. She completed the London Marathon just eight days earlier.
More than one hundred runners tackled the marathon in memory of Evan McGrotty, who lost his life alongside four other members of his family, in the Buncrana Pier tragedy.
Evan had the muscle-wasting condition, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which leads to increasing disability and cuts lives short.
The eight-year-old died after the car he was in, along with five other members of the McGrotty and Daniels families, slipped into the water at Buncrana harbour.
Brave Davitt Walsh leapt into the sea and managed to save four-month-old Rioghnach-Ann, and almost managed to grab another child - but the youngster was dragged from his grip by the pressure of the vehicle.
Louise James was on a trip away at the time of the tragedy.
She and Davitt, were among family, friends and members of the community running together as Team Evan at Monday's marathon.
Members of the team took part in the relay race, or covered the full marathon distance to raise vital funds for the charity’s Duchenne Research Breakthrough Fund.
They wore a specially designed t-shirt featuring Evan and his 12-year-old big brother Mark who also lost his life.
Louise, Evan’s mum, said: “I want to thank every single person who took part to remember Evan, whether you ran the race or have put your hand in your pocket to donate.
"You did something remarkable in his name and to celebrate his life. I know he would be proud.
"Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a heart-breaking condition.
"There are hundreds of young people who live with it today. For them, we need to raise awareness of Duchenne.
"We need to help make sure that children and their families in the future don’t face the same fears and challenges that we did.
“It means so much that people who knew Evan and my family, and many who didn’t, have come together like this.”
Thomas McCallion, who co-ordinated the group, told how his son, also named Tom (8), asked him to take up the challenge in memory of Evan, his best friend
He said: "Following an effort from my own running club members to run the Belfast Marathon in support of the family, I spoke to my family about possibly doing something myself.
"My son Tom, who was Evan's best friend, asked if I would do the full marathon in his memory, a request I couldn't say no to.
"My own club runners and members of other local clubs in Derry and Donegal have showed fantastic support. It has been a positive and memorable day for us all.”
Robert Meadowcroft, chief executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, added: “We extend our heartfelt thanks to Louise, Thomas and all those who ran with them.
"We are deeply proud to have their support. It’s impossible to comprehend what Louise, her family and friends must be going through.
"We are in awe of the strength of character they display in resolving to do something so tremendous to celebrate the lives of those lost.
“We are determined to accelerate research leading to treatments, and cures, for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and all muscle-wasting conditions.
"Thanks to the huge efforts from Team Evan, we will be able to move forward in the fight to beat Duchenne."
Donations can be made on Team Evan's just giving page.
The group have surpassed their £3,000 target to fund Muscular Dystrophy UK’s ground-breaking research into beating Duchenne muscular dystrophy.