Lost Voice Guy inspires young people with disabilities to take part in the Great North Run


Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley has inspired a group of young people with disabilities to get involved in the Great North Run as he takes on the challenge for the second year.

Lee rose to prominence in 2018 after winning the 12th series of Britain's Got Talent for his stand-up comedy act and is now gearing up for the half-marathon in September.

Smile For Life Children's Charity works with disadvantaged and disabled young people across the region, and offers support to enhance their life experiences. These include providing specialised equipment to make daily life easier, day trips away, and work experience placements. Lee has been Patron of the North East based Children's charity since 2017.

Lee, originally from Consett but who now lives in Gosforth, has cerebral palsy and uses a communication device to speak. After competing in 2023 - an idea that started as a joke - with the help of four friends who pushed him around the course, he accomplished the incredible achievement.

Lee said: “The support was out of this world, every Geordie should do it once.” Now up for the challenge again, Lee will be accompanied by five young adults that are supported by the charity.

For Lucy Berry and Thomas Hardie, it will be their first time running the annual half-marathon. Lucy, who got involved with the charity first as a customer before lockdown, said: “It was important to give back. The charity has played a massive part in helping me be independent.”

Whilst Thomas, who first was offered work experience said: “The charity has given me the opportunity to work my way up and I am now supervisor of the Ouseburn Café. We all support each other and taking part in the race is what matters.”

Lee Ridley says "every Geordie should do the GNR once"
Lee Ridley says "every Geordie should do the GNR once" -Credit:Craig Connor/ChronicleLive

Lee spoke of how important the work Smile For Life is to disadvantaged young people and said: “I know how hard it can be for them, when I was growing up we didn't really have anything like this. That's why Smile For Life is so important for giving people the same opportunities in life. It's amazing what they have managed to achieve and that's why I wanted to be a patron.

“It's such a great feeling to have inspired other people, and I'm glad they have decided to take up the challenge as it's such an inclusive and welcoming event anyway.”

Lee added: “I think that these sort of events should be open to anyone and everyone, so it's nice to see more disabled young people being more active. It will help them both physically and mentally, which can only be a positive thing.”

Paula Gascoigne, chief executive of Smile For Life, explained how the charity - which has been running since 2008 - started by offering young people with learning disabilities work experience and day out opportunities: “In the last 16 years we have grown so much, and now offer work placements where the young people can grow their confidence, get real life experience and gain skills.

“A team of young people also get involved in work placements at our Café Beam in Gosforth and Café Beam @ Ouseburn Farm, which opened last year."

Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley meeting younger a generation of people with disabilities who he has inspited to take on the world’s most famous half-marathon The Great North Run to help the Children’s charity Smile For Life.
Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley meeting younger a generation of people with disabilities who he has inspited to take on the world’s most famous half-marathon The Great North Run to help the Children’s charity Smile For Life. -Credit:Craig Connor/ChronicleLive

Paula added: “A community has also formed where the young people, who could have been socially isolated before joining, have now made wonderful friendships. Lee, a patron of our charity since 2017, has been a perfect role model on how to overcome obstacles, the young people absolutely idolise him.”

Also taking part in the race will be Aodhan Horseman, Josh Hardie and James Middleton. James, who joined the charity on a work placement for his course in hospitality and catering, has since worked his way up. His apprenticeship, funded by Smile For Life, has cemented his enthusiasm for cooking, and he now manages the kitchen on his own.

James said: “Seeing Lee on TV made me realise no matter what your capabilities, you can do it. He is truly inspiring to us here and encourages us.” Aodhan added: "The race is going to be amazing, its an inspirational event and I'm so proud of myself."

For Josh, now a permanent member of the front of house staff after work experience, it is his fifth time taking part in the race. He said: “I love the work ethic and atmosphere of Café Beam, I’m excited for the whole group to join in with Lee who is fab.”

L-R Thomas Fretwell, Josh Hardie, Aodhan Horseman, Lucy Berry and James Middleton with Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley, who has inspired them to take on the world’s most famous half-marathon
L-R Thomas Fretwell, Josh Hardie, Aodhan Horseman, Lucy Berry and James Middleton with Lost Voice Guy Lee Ridley, who has inspired them to take on the world’s most famous half-marathon -Credit:Craig Connor/ChronicleLive

Lee added that one piece of advice he would give the youngsters was “enjoy every moment, it's a long day so make sure to take it all in!”

You can support Lee, and the five young people, by donating to his fundraiser here.