What happened next?

9th June 2006 at 01:00
This term we're tracking down the latest instalment in some of the significant stories we've told in Friday magazine since 1998. Let us know if you'd like us to publish the latest twist in your tale. This week: Danny Smith's race to save his son's life "My son is dying and I need your help," wrote English teacher Danny Smith in a Talkback article for Friday magazine two years ago. Danny Smith and his teacher wife Elaine were devastated when they discovered that their son Sam, then three, had a muscle-wasting disease that meant he would probably die in early adulthood.

Mr Smith channelled his grief into an awareness and fundraising campaign on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), his son's genetic condition. He asked his "school family" for help - and he got it; colleagues at Ryton comprehensive in Gateshead joined forces to conduct a 24-hour marathon teach-in - dubbed "the longest day" - to raise money for research into DMD.

In November 2004, we featured Danny Smith's struggle again, in an article on teachers who bring together their private and professional lives through a passion for a cause. By then, the Longest Day project had raised pound;50,000; Ryton students as well as past and present colleagues had been fired up by Danny's campaign, which, he said, was like a "whole school citizenship project". Friday readers sent cash, cheques and emails after seeing Danny's story.

Two years on, Danny Smith has successfully completed the project he named "the longest year" - in which he abstained from alcohol for the whole of 2005, and persuaded high-profile figures to do the same - for a day each.

Charles Clarke, then secretary of state for education, abstained for a day (January 9 2005, according to the note that his office sent Danny Smith) as did Chris Tarrant, Cliff Richard and Sue Barker. "The longest year"

initiative raised another pound;28,000 for research into DMD.

Once again Danny Smith's colleagues are exerting themselves on his behalf.

Of the 4,000 runners taking part today (June 9) in Newcastle's Blaydon Race (led by north-eastern Olympic runner Mike McLeod), at least 50 are teachers supporting the cause. Danny is running, too, and the race organisers have made the Longest Day their sole nominated charity. Ryton students are running the junior race.

Danny Smith has so far raised more than pound;100,000 for research into DMD and this autumn trials of a therapy for the condition start at Newcastle's Centre for Life. Sam Smith, seven years old this month, is in "rude health", says his dad. He plays cricket and football, is tanned and his weight is steady. "He's very, very happy," says Mr Smith. "He's never down in the mouth."

Wendy Wallace

To contribute to the fund or learn more about the campaign, visit www.thelongestday.co.uk

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