The father of a baby girl who was born at just 27 weeks has completed an enormous sponsored cycling challenge to thank three charities that supported the family.

Chris Penfold, 37, has raised £5,610 for the Sick Children’s Trust, Bliss and Addenbrooke’s charitable trust by running and cycling the same route his premature daughter travelled in order to receive the lifesaving care she needed.

Dad Chris, from Chelmsford, was terrified when his wife, Laura, 32, went into labour 13 weeks early at home on 28 December 2016. Less than two hours later their daughter, Willow, was born at Broomfield Hospital weighing only 2lb 10oz.

She was placed in a plastic bag to keep her temperature high and rushed to the special care baby unit (SCBU). Struggling for every breath, doctors made the decision to intubate tiny Willow and place her in an incubator before she was transferred 60 miles away to The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge for lifesaving treatment.

It was at this point that The Sick Children’s Trust stepped in and offered the traumatised parents free ‘home from home’ accommodation at Chestnut House, located just moments from where Willow was.

Dad, Chris, who raised £2,244 for The Sick Children’s Trust, said: “When we arrived at The Rosie Hospital the doctors told us it was likely that Willow was going to have to stay in hospital until her due date, which was three months away. Without The Sick Children’s Trust I don’t know what we would have done, especially as our son Finley was so young and needed to be with his mum and dad.

“One of the reasons I decided take on Willow’s journey on March 31 is because that was her due date. It is a significant date for us and one that is tinged with sadness. I wanted to make it into a positive occasion and one that marked a huge success rather than the sense of failure associated with not having ‘made it’ to that date.

I wanted to thank the charities, like The Sick Children’s Trust, who made our lives bearable and offered us both emotional and practical support. We had no idea such a charity existed before Willow was born. Now, having been supported by The Sick Children’s Trust, I know exactly how important the charity is to families with a seriously ill child in hospital.”

To say thank you to the charity for its help, Chris ran and cycled the route that Willow travelled in her first few weeks of life, from the moment Laura’s waters broke, her delivery at Broomfield Hospital and then on to The Rosie Hospital in Cambridge.

The Sick Children’s Trust runs ten ‘Homes from Home’ across the country supporting families with seriously ill children. The charity relies entirely on donations and although the accommodation is free for families it costs the charity £30 to support a family for a night in one of its houses.