Fancy-dress astronaut runs to the moon

March 24 2021

A KINGSWOOD dad is running the distance to the moon and back dressed as an astronaut to raise money for charities whose work helped save his and his son’s life.

Merv Lawrence is leading a team of Moontrekkers

Merv Lawrence, 38, has assembled a team of nearly 100 Moontrekker participants to help him achieve the mileage between now and August by running, walking or cycling.

Many of the other fundraisers are dressing up to run too – including as Woody, Rex and Mr Potato Head from Toy Story – to bring a smile to youngsters on the streets of Kingswood and beyond as they clock up their miles.

Merv, a builder, said: “The idea was inspired by my wife, Beccy. When she puts the kids to bed she always says, ‘I love you to the moon and back.’”

While home schooling his older sons, Charlie, nine, and Lenny, seven, while Beacon Rise primary school was closed in the most recent lockdown, he got them to work out exactly how far that would be.

He said: “The real distance to the moon and back is 477,710 miles which is a bit more than I can sensibly manage. But I thought if I make one mile on Earth the equivalent of 50 miles in space, then it’s still a big, but doable, challenge.”

Despite not running regularly before, he plans to run at least 2,000 of the 9,554 miles himself, all while wearing his spacesuit.

He is even building himself a ‘rocket bike’ to keep the theme going when he is out cycling.

Merv hopes to raise in excess of £10,000, to split between four charities close to his heart.

He has chosen the British Heart Foundation because youngest son Teddy, two, was born at Southmead Hospital with a life-threatening heart condition called ventricular septal defect.

Holes between the lower chambers of Teddy’s heart were preventing the normal flow of blood to his lungs and making it difficult for him to breathe.

Teddy has endured open heart surgery, has to be fed by tube and suffers breathing and sleeping difficulties. He is due more surgery at Bristol Children’s Hospital this year and will continue needing surgery until he is six.

Now he’s old enough to talk, his condition has become more heartbreaking for his parents because Teddy can verbalise that he doesn’t want treatments or his feeding tube changed.

Merv said: “It’s very tough to see what Teddy has to face every day. But he’s very active and loves playing with his brothers.”

The Aplastic Anaemia Trust has also been important in Merv’s life, after he developed the rare life-threatening auto-immune disease 15 years ago. He was diagnosed while serving in the Army after suffering dizziness, bruising and bleeding gums. Aplastic anaemia meant his bone marrow was no longer producing sufficient red blood cells. Blood transfusions to kickstart his immune system were unsuccessful and Merv was told he had just nine months to live if a bone marrow donor match wasn’t found.

He said: “I thought I was invincible, like Rambo. My world just fell in. Even if they found a match, there was no guarantee that the transplant would work.”

Luckily a bone marrow donor was found within six months and the transplant was successful. 

Merv said: “After the operation I was lucky enough to be able to write to my donor.

“I told him that he should be proud for the rest of his life of the selfless act he had done. And I promised him that I would spend the rest of my life working hard and putting my life to good use.”

Merv was medically discharged from the army, married Beccy, who is now 37, and started a family.

Another quarter of the funds raised will go to Clevedon-based youth engagement charity the Jack Hazeldine Foundation. Merv wanted to choose one local charity and, as a dad to three sons, wanted other young boys to benefit from working with mentors if they don’t have strong role models in their home lives.

The final charity that will benefit is the neonatal and stillbirth charity Sands, because of the time that Teddy spent in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit when he was born. Merv also has bereaved friends who have been supported by the charity.

Merv, who has lived in Kingswood for the past seven years, said: “My family and I have had so much good fortune, so this is my way of giving back."

Friends from across the UK and as far away as Australia have joined in the Moontrekkers challenge, pledging to run, walk, cycle or swim their own miles to fundraise.

To donate to Merv’s fundraising efforts or to join in the challenge visit loveyoutothemoonandback.org