Pull on your walking shoes for Bobby and James

Emma Doherty, her son Bobby (22 months), Michelle Travis and her son James (19 months), who are going to do a charity walk from St Helens to the DW Stadium for the Good Friday match pictured outside the DW Stadium
Emma Doherty, her son Bobby (22 months), Michelle Travis and her son James (19 months), who are going to do a charity walk from St Helens to the DW Stadium for the Good Friday match pictured outside the DW Stadium

Caring for a poorly baby must feel incredibly lonely at times.

Bobby Baldwin has three holes in his heart and was born with major aortopulmonary collateral arteries, which means blood cannot pump round his body because he has no pulmonary arteries.

He has spent a lot of time at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool with his parents Emma Doherty and John Baldwin and had his first major surgery when he was just six weeks old.

It was at the hospital that Emma and John, who live in Worsley Mesnes, met Michelle and Terry Travis.

Their son James was born a few weeks after Bobby with his heart on the wrong side of his chest and the wrong way round, a large hole in his heart and other health problems.

The families got to know each other, talking about their children and supporting each other.

Emma said: “We have become really close. Without Michelle I don’t think I would be where I am today.

“We meet a lot of people and they could be from Birmingham or we even met someone from Nigeria.

“It’s really nice and we are forever meeting up, having play dates.

“It’s great to have someone who understands. The boys are only a few weeks apart in age so they grow up together and play together.

“We are really close. I have only known her for two years but she been really good.”

It was not just their babies that they bonded over, but also their rival rugby league clubs.

Emma and John are proud Wigan Warriors fans, while Michelle and Terry support St Helens.

Emma said: “The first day we met each other in Alder Hey they had come in from Whiston and I had my Wigan jacket on.

“The first thing out of Terry’s mouth was something about Wigan.

“From then on we have been best friends.”

So when they were considering doing something to raise money in honour of their boys, they knew rugby had to be involved.

Michelle said: “When we were in Alder Hey, Wigan and St Helens were playing and we were having a bit of banter about rugby. We never fell out, it was always friendly banter about Wigan and St Helens.

“We knew it had to be on derby day and about Wigan and St Helens because that was how we met.”

The two families are organising a fund-raising walk from Saints’ Totally Wicked Stadium to Wigan’s DW Stadium.

They will set off at around 8.30am on Good Friday morning and hope to arrive in time for the 12.15pm kick-off for the match between Wigan and Saints.

Emma said: “Obviously we will be in separate stands while we watch the match!”

The walkers will be sponsored to take on the challenge and will collect donations along the way for cardiac research surgery for children and Ronald McDonald House, which provided accommodation for the families while their children were in hospital.

Emma said: “If it wasn’t for research, Bobby and James wouldn’t be here now and they might do research to help other children.

“We want other families to have a better chance.”

Around 30 people have already signed up to take part in the walk and raise money for the charities.

Bobby, who is 22 months old, and 19-month-old James will both be there with their families, along with James’s six-year-old brother Jack.

And they hope as many people as possible will join them. Michelle, who lives in St Helens, said: “Anyone is welcome to take part.

“We would be grateful if anyone can walk with us and collect on the day because we are taking buckets with us.

“We want everyone to enjoy the day and do it for Bobby and James.”

To find out more about the walk and take part, go to the Bobby’s Bravery Facebook page.

Donations to the appeal can be made online at the website www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Bobby-James.