Bereaved Banbury couple mark twins' 18th birthday with 18 challenges

Sharon and Dominic Darke after their bike challenge
Sharon and Dominic Darke after their bike challenge

A bereaved Banbury couple raised nearly £700 completing 18 different challenges over 18 days to mark what would have been the 18th birthdays of their twin sons.

Sharon and Dominic Darke decided to raise money for a twins charity bereavement support group after all the help they have received since Charlie and Joshua's deaths.

Sharon Darke running

Sharon Darke running

The pair did a variety of poignant and gruelling challenges over 18 days, from celebrating their birthday on September 13, to releasing to 18 flower petals on September 30.

Sharon, who is a teacher at Hill View Primary School, said it was an emotional but fulfilling experience and the support has been 'wonderful.

“It’s been an incredible experience and more than I ever thought it would be," she said.

“The amount of support I’ve received has been wonderful and the comments and conversations I’ve had has been amazing.

The Darke family. (L-R) Jess, Samuel, Sharon and Dominic

The Darke family. (L-R) Jess, Samuel, Sharon and Dominic

“I’ve had fantastic support and there hasn’t be a day go by where I haven’t had a message or a chat with someone about the twins or the blog or an event.

“Usually on birthdays I get a few cards on the day and then it just goes quiet again and I’ve felt quite flat. This year I really felt like I’ve celebrated their 18th birthday in style.

Identical twins Charlie and Joshua were born prematurely at 26 weeks gestation on September 13, 1999, and lived a matter of days before passing away.

The challenges coincide with the days the twins died – the 19th for Charlie and the 25th for Joshua.

Sharon Darke on one of the easier challenges, 18 minutes of relaxation

Sharon Darke on one of the easier challenges, 18 minutes of relaxation

The end date of September 30 is another poignant date as it was the day before the twins’ funeral.

Sharon’s 18 challenges include some sentimental and meaningful tasks for the family, such as laying flowers at the cemetery and giving 18 kisses to her two other children, Jess and Samuel.

But other days were physically challenging, such as her 18-mile run and18-mile bike ride where she was joined by friends, family and attendees of Banbury Park Run.

“Throughout September there has been so much going on," Sharon said.

Sharon Darke

Sharon Darke

“I honestly can’t pick a favourite. For every single challenge I’ve thought ‘this is definitely my favourite’ and then the next day I’ve thought ‘no, this is my favourite’.

“I think the one that affected me most was the run. So many people joined in the event, I was overwhelmed at how many people came to run with me and wore blue for the boys.

“When I was writing the blog for that day and going through the pictures again I couldn’t stop crying.

“For the very last day, we decided to release some rose petals in the brook near the cemetery and then walk upstream to where their gravestone is.

“I started the 18 challenges by visiting their gravestone too, so it feels right that we should end things there too.

“I must admit it was a bit sad when the 18 challenges finished, but I’m still in training as I’m doing a half marathon soon.

“It’s gone really well and I’m so pleased with how everything has been.”

The challenges are all in aid of of bereavement support group ran by Tamba (Twins and Multiple Births Association), which supported the Darke family through the twins' death and Sharon is now a group coordinator.

Twins are seven times more likely to die shortly after birth than a single baby and the community has a closed group on Facebook where parents can share stories and console each other in their losses.

As well as providing online support the group also offers leaflets on bereavement of multiples and a befriending service.

Tamba support services manager Helen Turier said Sharon’s fundraising is an incredible way of marking Charlie and Joshua’s birthday.

“Sharon’s dedication to the Bereavement Support Group and to Tamba has been simply inspiring," she said before Sharon started.

“We’re incredibly proud of how supportive and special the group is and Sharon is instrumental in making it such a welcoming and understanding place.

“She’s motivated and determined so we know the more physically gruelling days will be hard, but she’ll definitely not be defeated.

"Everyone at Tamba will be cheering Sharon and her family on during her fundraising days and we can’t wait to hear all her stories from each event.”

To make a donation, visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/sharondarke2. To read Sharon's blog visit sharondarke.wordpress.com.

Any multiple birth families who have suffered a loss can visit tamba.org.uk/bereavement for information and support.