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Mike running Belfast Marathon in aid of incredABLE – who changed his girlfriend’s sister’s life

'I have never excelled at running or long distance running and so I signed up to challenge myself to complete this gruelling run and raise money for a fantastic charity'

Mike and Sophie

A runner has entered the Belfast Marathon to raise money for the Co Armagh charity IncredABLE-y Made – after they helped his girlfriend’s sister defy the parameters of her learning disability.

Mike Flack (19), decided to run the 26.2 miles to give back to the charity which he says provided the opportunities to change her life.

He has set up a JustGiving page which has so far raised over £1,000!

His girlfriend’s sister, Sophie Reilly, has epilepsy and autism, meaning she has been unable to avail of the opportunities that many others take for granted. She has been involved with incredABLE for over three years.

incredABLE is an organisation set up to create meaningful social and educational opportunities for people with learning disabilities or autism. One way they do this is through incredABLE-y Made opportunities, which teach the skills to assist people in their pathway to further work-based learning and employment.

Sophie has struggled to find meaningful day-time activity and many doors have been closed for her due to a lack of understanding about her condition.

This led to a frustrating situation for Sophie and her family as she always wanted to be with other young people and living a normal life, but this was denied to her time and time again, leading to Sophie becoming isolated and cut off from her peers.

Three years ago, however, things changed when Sophie was offered an enterprising day opportunity at incredABLE. The incredABLE-y Made hubs and staff teams provided creative and meaningful activities for Sophie within a safe and supportive space, mirroring a real social enterprise environment.

It’s safe to say the experience totally turned Sophie’s life around.

Said Mike: “I started training for this event over four months ago and I’ve been running every week since. I have never excelled at running or long distance running and so I signed up to challenge myself to complete this gruelling run and raise money for a fantastic charity.

“When it came to choosing incredABLE as my charity to raise money for, that decision was easy.

“incredABLE has given Sophie so many amazing opportunities to develop her skills and learning along with providing her with a place to look forward to going to every week.”

The ‘Mile for Mike’ event held in Armagh on Tuesday

He continued: “The work incredABLE has done doesn’t just stop at Sophie though as their efforts have been a massive help to Sophie’s family. I have had the joy of watching first hand how much incredABLE has done for Sophie and her entire family, how much Sophie has developed in her confidence, learning and skills!

“This amazing charity gave me the opportunity to see how many lives they were impacting each and every week and it was truly brilliant to see. incredABLE and incredABLE-y Made have provided massive amounts of help and support to families of those with learning disabilities and to their own participants themselves.”

To help support Mike in his journey, the charity organised a ‘Mile for Mike’ morning, which took place on the Mall in Armagh on Tuesday (April 23), to support their incredABLE-y Made team and give Mike, “one last hoorah” before he sets off on Sunday, May 5.

Just under 50 people attended to support Mike and the incredABLE-y Made participants also made their famous chocolate lollies, displaying words of encouragement to Mike. They also presented Mike with his very own personalised running top, created by C&G Embroideries.

Annabelle Pentland, from incredABLE, said: “It has been amazing to see Sophie’s confidence grow attending a regular, weekly activity with no time or age limit attached, a place she has made many new friends, learned so many new skills and gained so much independence, a place she loves coming to and feels empowered, inspired and included.

“With all of this said, this is the reason why Mike wanted to fundraise for incredABLE, because of the remarkable difference it has made to Sophie’s life and no doubt countless others. To support incredABLE-y made grow their opportunities across the Southern Trust, please help Mike raise as much money as possible.”

Gemma McKinney, the Service Delivery Manager at incredABLE, added: “Running a marathon is an enormous personal achievement, and on behalf of incredABLE I want to congratulate Mike for his inspiring dedication over the last number of months and every pound raised.”

“To be motivated to participate in such a challenge having seen the impact of our work inspires us all!

“Funds raised by Mike are extremely vital for ensuring the growth and sustainability of our social, recreational and skills-based programmes and services for adults with learning/intellectual disabilities and autism both now and into the future.”

You can donate to Mike’s fundraising by visiting the JustGiving link here.

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