Beds, Herts & Bucks

Ross Coniam: #NineForNorah dad's walk to daughter's grave

Ross Coniam Image copyright Ross Coniam
Image caption Ross Coniam finished the sixth of his nine challenges of 2019 at the grave of his daughter, Norah

A bereaved father whose fundraising appeal soared after a tweet went viral has completed an "emotional journey" to his daughter's grave.

Ross Coniam has set himself nine challenges in memory of daughter Norah, who lived for nine hours in May 2018.

On Saturday, he reached Hertfordshire, after walking 136 miles (219km) from Gloucestershire in six days, raising the fund's total to £51,000 for 2019.

The #Nine4Norah appeal was tweeted by TV presenter Jake Humphrey in April.

"Never in a million years did I think I'd raise this much," said Mr Coniam, who had a target of £6,000 to support stillborn and neo-natal charities.

'Kindness of strangers'

Mr Coniam set off from Cirencester with his former school teacher Bob Ford and was supported by friends en route to Chorleywood.

He said he was "inspired by the kindness of strangers", with a donation coming in from dog walkers, and was surprised by other bereaved dads when they joined him on the final day.

Image copyright Ross Coniam
Image caption Mr Coniam began the walk with his former school teacher, Bob Ford, on Monday

Friends and family, including his wife Naomi, who is seven months pregnant, met him at journey's end.

He described their welcome as "a lovely way to end a tough week".

"We've had a lot of challenges this year but this was perhaps the most personal to me," he said.

"It meant a lot to finish it at the cemetery, to see Norah's grave.

"She will always be part of our family. She's changed our lives."

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Image copyright Ross Coniam
Image caption Ross Coniam, centre, was joined on the final day by friends from Sands United, a football team whose players have all experienced the loss of a child

Next month Mr Coniam is climbing the national three peaks in 24 hours (Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike) and faces the Great North Run on Tyneside in September.

He said the ninth and final challenge will be an 18-mile (29km) walk from the Thames Valley to Putney later this year, in which he hopes to be joined by his wife and new baby.

The Watford FC fan had raised £3,058 when Humphrey spotted his #Nine4Norah hoodie in the crowd at the FA Cup semi-final.

He shared the fundraising page to his 900,000 Twitter followers during the match, with the appeal reaching £12,000 by the following morning.

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