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Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Wednesday, 2 September 2009 12:00 UK
Runner boosted by celeb sponsor

By James Branch
BBC Tyne Contributor

James Branch
James Branch is running for the Tiny Lives charity

A chance tweet on Twitter put James Branch from Hebburn in touch with a celebrity sponsor for the Great North Run. He hopes to raise money for a local cause that's close to his heart.

Back in 2008 I completed my first Great North Run in 2 hours and 20 minutes. I also managed to raise more than £500 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

I thoroughly enjoyed the "Great Run" experience and I have vowed to try and do the GNR every year from now on.

2009 is certainly no different and I've now been in training since last year in order to improve on my time.

This year, however, I'm raising money for a different kind of charity.

A touching visit

Back in March, I read in the local newspaper about the Tiny Lives charity, which raises funds to support the work of the special care baby unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. This unit cares for around 30 babies at any given time.

Alan Davies
Alan Davies (from TV show Jonathan Creek) sponsored James

It costs (on average) around £1,500 to help each child on the ward, so you can imagine the amount of donations the unit needs to help these tiny lives.

Also, my wife Mel is expecting our fourth child in February, so it's reassuring to know that there are units such as the one at the RVI that will be there to help, should our baby need it.

In June, I contacted Louise Carroll, who is one of the charity organisers for Tiny Lives, and she kindly arranged for me to visit the unit and meet the wonderful team of people who care for these premature and seriously ill babies.

It was touching to meet some of the families, who were obviously desperate to get their child home but also grateful for the outstanding work that the huge team of nurses, specialists and doctors carry out each day.

Help from Twitter

Seeing how thankful the families were inspired me to raise as much as I could for the unit, so I involved my Twitter and Facebook friends by asking them if they would be kind enough to donate as much as they could.

One of the people that I follow on Twitter is Alan Davies, better known as Jonathan Creek from the BBC series.

Even in today's financial climate, people are still being kind enough to donate as much as they can
James Branch

I sent him a quick tweet, along with my JustGiving charity link and he very kindly donated £370, boosting my fundraising target to a huge £500!

I was grinning from ear to ear for days!

To date, friends and family (and let's not forget celebrities!) have donated almost £800 and I have more to collect and add to the total amount, so hopefully I'll reach my target of £1,000 for Tiny Lives, if not more.

Even in today's financial climate, people are still being kind enough to donate as much as they can.

My training is still going to plan and although I've had a couple of injuries during the year, I've managed to rest and start training again and I'll hopefully manage to get to South Shields in less than two hours!

I've been helped along nicely by the many people on Twitter who are also doing the GNR and it's nice to chat with them on a regular basis, to see how they're doing with their training.

It's all getting very exciting now and I can't wait for race day to arrive.

See you at the finish line!

If anyone wants to contact James his twitter username is Jaybranch (http://www.twitter.com/jaybranch)


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