Twin tots Abigail and Ava-May Pengelly are taking part in a ‘baby triathlon’ in their village next month to raise funds towards a memorial to brave airmen badly burned in the Second World War.
The three-year-olds are supporting their former neighbour Dr Sandy Saunders’ fundraising campaign for a memorial to the ‘Guinea Pig Club’ - a unique club formed by badly burned airmen in the Second World War who were treated by the pioneering plastic surgeon, Sir Archibald McIndoe, at the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, West Sussex.
The girls’ sponsored triathlon, in Burton Lazars on Saturday, August 6 (10am start), will see them run down from the church to Peppers Lane, then riding bikes to the bottom of the village and then making their way back up on their scooters to the village hall where the monthly coffee morning will be taking place.
Any other little ones who’d like to join Abigail and Ava-May on the day are welcome to join in.
The twins were born when their parents lived next door to Sandy and his wife, Maggie.
Their proud mum, Natasha, said: “The girls are very excited. They love to do things like this and being outside. We do quite a lot of fundraising for different things and we talk to them about helping other people.
“They’ve raised about £70 via their JustGiving page at the moment and probably about £100 separately on their sponsorship forms. Hopefully they will raise even more on the day.”
This month marked the 75th anniversary of the Guinea Pig Club’s founding. By the end of the war it had 649 members. Initially it was intended to be a drinking club which would disband at the end of the war but it grew in strength and has continued to provide support throughout members’ lives.
Sandy (93), of Burton Lazars, is one of just 18 surviving UK members of the club. He suffered 40 per cent burns when his Tiger Moth plane crashed on a training exercise in 1945, towards the end of the war.
He said: “The camaraderie of the Guinea Pig Club was vital to the men’s recovery. It’s a wonderful organisation which offered medical and welfare assistance.”
The members continued to keep in touch several times a year, but as the years have passed fewer are alive and many who are can’t travel.
Sandy had 14 operations at Birmingham before being sent back on duty as second in command of a prisoner of war camp near Derby. But when his eyelid replacements shrank and he couldn’t close his eyes he was sent to East Grinstead for treatment by Sir Archibald McIndoe where he had a further 14 operations.
Now he wants to raise £25,000 for a memorial, a lasting tribute to the Guinea Pig Club, planned to be unveiled in the National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire, later this year where it can be seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
A recent screening of a film about ‘McIndoe’ at Melton’s Regal Cinema raised a fantastic £1,272 towards the cause. Thanks go to the film makers and the cinema who waived their charges.
To sponsor Abigail and Ava-May visit https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/natasha-pengelly
You can also visit Sandy’s Crowdfunding page at https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/sandyandmaggie-saunders