PROUD parents Freddy and Laura Stevens will run the Oxford Mail OX5 for the hospital that helped their son Thomas, who was born with a cleft lip and palate.

After two successful operations at Oxford Children’s Hospital, they say the two-year-old is now living a normal life.

The parents, of Crosslands Drive, Abingdon, will join hundreds of people at the five-mile run around Woodstock’s Blenheim Palace on Sunday, March 29.

Praising the children’s hospital, Mrs Stevens, 31, said: “When we found out Thomas was born with a cleft lip and palate we didn’t know anything about it. From the first minute up to now the support they have given us has been amazing.

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“His speech is still slightly behind others at his age but he’s doing everything that a little boy of two-and-a-half should be doing; he climbs up everything and loves Fireman Sam.

“I can’t put into words what they’ve done for us. They are our heroes. I want to give something back to thank them.”

A cleft lip and palate is a gap or split in the lip and roof of the mouth. It occurs when separate areas of the face do not join together properly when a baby is developing during pregnancy.

Cleft lips and palates may cause speech and hearing problems. Thomas had operations to close the gaps in his palate and lip.

The toddler will probably be returning to the children’s hospital for further surgery.

Mrs Stevens said: “They’ve made us feel comfortable. The hardest thing is handing your child over to complete strangers but with the staff at the children’s hospital we know he’ll be in safe hands.”

Her husband added: “Without the work they have done Thomas wouldn’t be where he is today.”

Mr Stevens, 33, who works at Johnsons Cars in Botley Road, will be taking part in his fifth OX5 Run.

He said: “I enjoy it, it’s a really great morning.

“Most people who run have a story behind it.”

Oxford Children’s Hospital spokeswoman Sarah Vaccari said: “We’re delighted that Thomas continues to do well and it’s great to see his parents running again to support the children’s hospital.

“We have 300 people signed up already for the March five-miler and with ten weeks to go this is the perfect time for people to sign up.”

The Oxford Mail-backed event is being sponsored by city recruitment firm Allen Associates for the seventh year.

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