'Little things count' - Teen's 100-mile run after teacher's diagnosis

Community hero Sophie Baker, aged 16, who is raising money for charity by running after one of the t

Community hero Sophie Baker, aged 16, who is raising money for charity by running after one of the teachers at Aylsham High School was diagnosed with a rare condition - Credit: Danielle Booden

A teenager from north Norfolk has set herself an ambitious target of running 100 miles for charity after a teacher at her school was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder.

Sixteen-year-old Sophie Baker first became aware of Ramsay Hunt syndrome (RHS) after her form tutor was told he was suffering from the condition. 

RHS is characterised by paralysis of the facial nerve and a rash affecting the ear or mouth. Ear abnormalities, such as ringing in the ears and hearing loss, may also be present. 

Aylsham High School. Picture: Danielle Booden

Aylsham High School sign - Credit: Danielle Booden

The Aylsham High School pupil, of Hevingham, explained how Mr Keats had been “an inspiration” to her throughout her time there. 

She said: “Mr Keats has been my form tutor since I started Year 7, and he’s always taught me to do my best and work hard.  


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“When I found out about his diagnosis, I instantly wanted to do everything I could to return the favour of him always being there for me. This hit me hard and I came to the realisation that life is way too short, and it’s always the little things that count the most.” 

Miss Baker set herself the target of running 100 miles for the charity Facial Palsy UK, to raise funds for its own challenge of raising £25,000 for research.

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On March 8, Miss Baker set up a Just Giving page with a goal of £200, which was raised that evening. She has since boosted the target to £400, which was reached within three days.  

Community hero Sophie Baker, aged 16, who is raising money for charity by running after one of the t

Community hero Sophie Baker, aged 16, who is raising money for charity by running 100 miles - Credit: Danielle Booden

Her total now stands at £672 and she has completed almost 60 miles of her challenge so far. 

She added: “This was a big challenge for me because I don’t usually run long distances, so I felt it was time I challenged myself for the need of others. 

“I’m so determined I can reach £1,000 by the time I reach my 100-mile target.” 

Miss Baker praised Velocity gym in nearby Marsham, where she works, for helping to encourage her. 

“In my free time, I like to work out and teach myself new things to see what my body is capable of.

"I enjoy weight lifting and pushing my body to train hard. This is hugely beneficial, not only for my physical health but my mental health too. I find lifting weights an escape to relieve stress and make me feel better about myself. 

Aylsham High School. Picture: Danielle Booden

Aylsham High School entrance - Credit: Danielle Booden

“Completing my run for Facial Palsy UK has been difficult. It has been both a mental and physical struggle but I have stayed positive through the miles I’ve completed so far, and I’ve been pushing myself to my best ability to get it achieved.” 

No stranger to fundraising, in May 2019 she raised £300 for Cancer Research UK by completing the 10k Pretty Muddy obstacle run. This was another cause close to her heart following the death of her granddad to lung cancer in 2010.

Her mum, Kim Krause, said she was proud of her daughter’s efforts: "Sophie immediately wanted to find a solution and her idea to fundraise was a great way to contribute. She thinks a lot of Mr Keates, so this is a lovely way to indirectly support him.” 

Aylsham High School student Sophie Baker, right, pictured with teacher, Tanya Wiseman, who has supported her efforts

Aylsham High School student Sophie Baker, right, has been hailed a community hero after she began running to raise money for charity - She is pictured with teacher, Tanya Wiseman, who has supported her efforts - Credit: Danielle Booden

She has also gained the support of her teachers at Aylsham High. 

Tayna Wiseman, lead health and social instructor, said: “Sophie has shown huge resilience and determination in her running. I know at times it has been a challenge for her, but she has really pushed herself to accomplish her goals. 

“As a school, we are very proud of her achievements and dedication for this cause. Sophie is in Felbrigg House at the school, and as a House we are also immensely proud of her enthusiasm and commitment. 

“She is a credit to herself and her House.” 

Mr Keats added: "I am so proud of her and what she has achieved for Facial Palsy UK. My family and I are overwhelmed by her thoughtfulness and determination and I am looking to seeing her when I return to school in the very near future.” 

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