'Ginormous challenge': boy with cerebral palsy completes marathon

Tobias Weller raises £60,000 for charity by walking up and down Sheffield road for 70 days

There were cheers from physically distanced crowds as nine-year-old Tobias Weller, a boy with autism and cerebral palsy, completed his remarkable challenge to walk a marathon to raise money for charity.

Nicknamed Captain Tobias, he has been walking up and down the Sheffield road where he lives for 70 days. He initially hoped to raise £500. A flood of support led to him raising the target to £30,000. On Sunday evening the total stood at more than £60,000.

He was described as “an absolute superstar” and an inspiration by supporters who included the athlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill and the BBC presenter Dan Walker.

Tobias had been planning on a 1km sponsored walk in the local park but, after lockdown put paid to that, he took inspiration from Captain Tom Moore’s 100th birthday walk and suggested the street marathon.

His condition means he uses a crocodile walker to get around. At the start of the challenge he was managing a maximum of 50 metres a day. Soon it was 750 metres.

On Sunday, police closed off the road and neighbours hung out bunting and balloons as they whooped and cheered him on to complete his challenge. His mother, Ruth Garbutt, said Tobias wanted to keep walking and would now aim to reach 50km.

She said: “I’m so, so pleased that he’s completed his marathon. He’s done really well. He’s tried so hard all the way through. He’s really achieved a massive goal. I’m bursting with pride for my little boy. He’s just magnificent.”

Tobias said he was “chuffed to bits” that he had raised so much money. “I can’t believe I completed a marathon. It’s just awesome. I love it when my neighbours clap and cheer for me and getting stronger and stronger every day is such a good feeling.”

Tobias was raising money for Sheffield children’s hospital, where he has had several operations, and Paces school, where he is a pupil. In his launch video he conceded it was a “ginormous challenge” for him. “A marathon is 42,195 metres, but I’m determined to do it.”

The money for Paces will go towards a new home, which will be a national centre for conductive education. The headteacher, Ruth Liu, said Tobias’s achievement was “absolutely tremendous”.

She added: “Such an aspirational target he set himself and just very slowly and methodically he’s worked his way through it with sheer determination. It’s an absolutely fantastic achievement. We’re so proud of him.”

Neighbours cheer on Tobias Weller.
Neighbours cheer on Tobias Weller. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Another of the school’s pupil’s, Lennie, 8, who lives in Leeds and has cerebral palsy and hydrocephalus, is also raising money after challenging himself to play up to 100 songs on the piano.

Tobias’s challenge has seen him appear on several TV programmes, including ITV’s This Morning.

Patrons of the children’s hospital charity who sent video messages wishing him luck included Ennis-Hill, who said: “I have been following your story and I just want to say I think you are absolutely incredible. What a challenge you’ve taken on.”

Walker said in his message: “What an incredible young man you are. I hear you, like many others, have been inspired by Captain Tom and you’ve raised thousands of pounds for the children’s hospital charity. Thank you for that. All the best with the last push, you are an absolute superstar.”

Another supporter was Manchester City and England footballer Esme Morgan, who said: “You’ve done an absolutely incredible job so far to walk as far as you have and I know you’ve been building up and building up each and every day, which is amazing.

“Honestly, what you have done is an inspiration to so many people. You’ve inspired me to work harder and try and do more every single session I do outside with my running and stuff so thank you for that. Everyone at the hospital is so grateful for everything you’ve done, it’s absolutely amazing.”


Mark Brown

The GuardianTramp

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