Published: 06:00, 19 September 2020
The grandfather of a little boy who died just 12 weeks after being diagnosed with a brain tumour is determined to raise awareness of the cruel disease no child survives.
A year ago today, the family of six-year-old Joey Ward-Bates, from Stalisfield, near Faversham, were told he had DIPG - an aggressive, incurable tumour affecting children.
The former Eastling Primary School pupil, who adored Lego and dreamed of one day racing cars, died before Christmas surrounded by those closest to him.
Now, in an effort to raise essential funds for a charity leading the fight against DIPG, Joey's grandad, Michael Ward, 57, is preparing to don his walking boots ahead of a 30-mile fundraising trek on Saturday, September 26.
"Joey was diagnosed with DIPG on September 19 last year and our lives have not been the same since that day," Mr Ward said.
"All we have left now are memories and photos. When Joey was diagnosed we were informed, like all the other children's families, there are no known survival cases - there was no hope of a cure.
"Although in some cases the treatment to prolong life is effective, in Joey's case it was not.
"We spent every minute we could making the memories we now treasure and treating Joey like the superhero he is. But devastatingly, less than three months after he was diagnosed, Joey lost his brave battle.
"I am walking from Faversham to Margate to raise money for a charity that helps to fund research into DIPG.
"The more research there is, the more chance there is for a different outcome for other children and to give their families what ours could not have - hope."
A JustGiving page for the walk - set up to raise money for the charity, Abbie's Army - has already surpassed £1,000 but needs extra donations in order to reach its £2,500 target.
Taking the coastal route through Seasalter, Reculver and Minnis Bay, the walk will start at 7am in Market Square and finish by the clocktower in Margate.
Joey's mum, Becky, who will be cheering on the walkers, says her little boy remains in the hearts of his family.
"Our world was turned upside down," she said.
"It's been an unbelievable year for all us; you couldn't put it into words.
"I've got amazing friends and family who have been helping us through this incredibly tough time.
"Dad's walk is excellent and he'll be having pit-stops along the way - at pubs, I'm sure.
"He's done little snippets of it over the last few Saturdays to get an idea of the timings. It started off with just him, Joey's dad and two friends taking part, but other people say they'll come along and take part, which is great.
"Tesco has been great and they're supplying the starting drinks and putting on a hamper for a raffle."
While her dad is raising money on the ground, Becky will soon be taking to the skies for a charity skydive which was previously scheduled for this March.
Donate to Michael's east Kent coastal walk by clicking here.