Rugby teacher will take on gruelling challenge in memory of former pupil who died from a brain tumour aged 12

He has dedicated his challenge to the memory of pupil Charles Ludford

Ollie Hawkins (left) in training with his friend Reece from Bristol
Ollie Hawkins (left) in training with his friend Reece from Bristol

A teacher who lives in Rugby is taking on a gruelling charity challenge this week in memory of one of his former pupils who died from a brain tumour aged 12.

On Friday (November 25) Ollie Hawkins is joining two friends for the Ironman in Tiberias, where he will swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and then run 26.2 miles in aid of Warwick children’s charity Molly Ollys.

The PE teacher at Arnold Lodge School in Leamington, has dedicated his challenge to the memory of pupil Charles Ludford, from Wolverton, who died in February 2020, just eight months after being diagnosed with cancer.

Clockwise from top left: Charles Ludford pictured with mum Jennie, dad James and sister Izzy; Charles aged 11; Charles aged 11 on the last family holiday in Mallorca; Charles battling his tumour aged 11.

Ollie, who has already raised more than £2,000 in sponsorship, said: “When people say that children are a delight to teach, I don't think any pupil could epitomise that phrase more than Charles. An ever-enthusiastic pupil, I had the pleasure of teaching Charles for PE, a subject that he loved!

“Not only was his passion for sport and PE admirable but it was his kind-hearted nature and willingness to help others that will always make me remember him. He was a pupil that would always ask to help me with carrying equipment and helping his peers in whatever sport he was competing in. A thank you goes a long way and Charles would always show his gratitude for every lesson and after school club, with a huge beaming smile on his face.

“Even when facing the challenge of his illness, Charles was incredibly positive in his battle, still being the cheeky charming young boy he will always be remembered for.

“I know that I'm lucky to have taught Charles and to complete the challenge of an Ironman still doesn't come close to the bravery and courage he showed.”

The Ironman marks a lifetime ambition for Ollie, 27, who has been training hard over recent months, including a half Ironman in The Cotswolds last month.

“The UK Ironman is in Bolton and I've got nothing against Bolton, but I'm fairly confident the scenery around the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias will trump that of Bolton. Also, I love the challenge and to say that I've completed one in a different country!” he said.

“I've realised during my training I'm not a big fan of open water, I found myself scared of leaves and anything swimming in the water. So, hopefully I won't have to tackle any jellyfish on my swim in Israel! I guess the only other thing I'm nervous about is failing, although the cut-off time is 17 hours and I'm confident I'll finish well before that. I don't want to have to come into work Monday morning without an Ironman medal around my neck!”

He added: “I feel incredibly honoured to be raising money for a charity that does amazing work providing support to children suffering from life-threatening illnesses and their families in the UK. Being a teacher comes with all sorts of challenges, none more so than seeing a pupil fight a serious illness.”

Warwick-based Molly Ollys was established following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer and marks its tenth anniversary this year.

The charity supports children with life-threatening illnesses and their families. It helps with emotional support and donates wishes, therapeutic toys and books to children directly and through hospitals across the UK.

Charles’ mum Jennie, who now herself works for the charity, said: “I am so touched that Ollie is doing this gruelling challenge in memory of our beautiful boy, Charles.

"Charles loved Arnold Lodge where Ollie teaches and despite only being there for a short time, he made some really strong relationships and was much loved by all the staff and pupils. To know he was so highly thought of is one of the things that keeps us going as a family, and I know that the money Ollie has raised will make such a difference to the children and families that we support at Molly Ollys.”

Rachel Ollerenshaw emotionally supported me at the time. I’d ask her about all the things that were haunting me such as how is it at the end when they are close to dying? What do I put on Christmas cards when he’s no longer here? She was so good and kind and listened but answered everything honestly which helped me. And now I am delighted to be playing my own part in helping others going through the same dark time.”