A DAD and his son are pounding the streets to raise money for the hospital that saved his two youngest boys' lives.

Lionel Toms and eight-year-old George are tackling Great Ormond Street Hospital's Running off Christmas initiative, where they have to complete 31 miles in January.

The aim is to run a mile each day of the month but the pair are already closing in on their target and have smashed their fundraising goal of £1,000.

Mr Toms' two youngest sons, Reggie and Ernie, four and two respectively, both had bone marrow transplants at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

"It's a cause close to our hearts," said the 31-year-old, of Cross Road, Clacton.

"When this fundraising idea flashed up on my phone I thought 'why not?'

"It's been a challenge.

"Although I like to keep fit, I don't class myself as a runner and it's not something that comes naturally.

"Finding the motivation is the hardest thing, especially at this time of year when the weather's so uninviting.

"It always feel great afterwards, though, and it's good to clear your head and get some air, especially with so much going on at home.

"It's a great release, especially after a day of home schooling!

"Football is my release and that's how I normally wind down on a Saturday afternoon.

"Now that no football's taking place, running has taken on that role.

"The idea is that we run a mile a day.

"Sometimes we've increased it and the most we've managed is 5.4 miles.

"Then, on other days, we've dropped back to a mile.

Chelmsford Weekly News: Reggie TomsReggie Toms

Little battler - Reggie Toms

"One afternoon we swapped running for walking and completed 1.7 miles as a family, with Reggie and Ernie.

"Completing this challenge is our way of giving something back and it's nice to do it with George.

"He's been by my side the whole time.

"I'm proud of him and we're achieving something special together."

Reggie and Ernie needed transplants after being diagnosed with Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome.

It affected their immune systems and made them susceptible to infection.

Both needed chemotherapy before having their surgery, which took place when Reggie was two and Ernie 18 months.

They spent more than a month in hospital and their donors came from Germany and America respectively.

Ernie is still recovering after having his transplant last year and needs regular dressing changes.

"It's given them a second chance of life," added Mr Toms, who is married to Charlotte, also 31, and runs his own football school for children, called Tomsy's Tekker Toddlers.

"It was a tough experience for us, as a family, and it's hard to explain, unless you've experienced something like it.

"But we've stuck together and our end goal has always been doing everything we can for our boys, to make sure they're safe and OK.

Chelmsford Weekly News: Ernie TomsErnie Toms

Big smile - Ernie Toms

"I always knew of Great Ormond Street.

"However, it's only since we've been through this experience that I've become aware of the amazing work they do.

"It's a phenomenal place and I've got nothing but respect for the staff, who work crazy hours and do such a phenomenal job.

"Thankfully, the boys are doing fine now, although the last few weeks have been tough, for obvious reasons.

"Lockdown isn't a new scenario for us, because we're used to shielding and staying indoors.

"It's important to keep the boys safe and protect them, because of their poor immune systems.

"In some ways, going into lockdown has made things easier for us because it's harder if the two older boys are still going to school and nursery. Ernie would then be at risk."

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FC Clacton reserve-team manager Mr Toms and George, a pupil at Cann Hall Primary School, were approaching 30 miles when they spoke to the Gazette.

And having set out with a personal target of raising £1,000, they were already on more than £1,400.

To add to their total head here.