Captain Underpants Takes to the Streets of Burnley To Raise
Money For Families of Child Cancer Sufferers
Is it a bird? Is it a plane?
No, it’s a masked man in some giant underpants!
There’s a new superhero on the streets of Burnley. A luminous yellow character by the name of “Captain Underpants” has been spotted pounding the town’s roads.
Cars honk their horns, passers-by cheer on encouragement and people laugh out loud at the curious sight.
But amid the fun and laughter, there’s a serious story about a daughter, her dedicated dad and family, and about how you can help children with cancer in Lancashire and their families, too.
“She just wasn’t feeling very well. We thought it was just a common cold.” Last year, Adrian Bebb’s 16-year-old daughter, Sophie, was complaining of a sore throat and a temperature.
Adrian, who lives in Padiham, Lancashire, with his wife Michelle, Sophie and two other daughters, Bethany, 13 and Jasmine, 9, was used to dealing with the everyday bugs and germs that all families get.
But, as this one continued, Sophie’s temperature kept rising and she started to feel more and more poorly. It was decided to visit the GP.
“When we got there, the GP quickly realised something was seriously wrong. He said ‘She needs to get to hospital now, and your car is going to be faster than an ambulance.’”
They headed immediately to the Royal Blackburn Hospital. At this point, doctors suspected sepsis – a life-threatening condition where the body over-reacts to an infection and starts to attack itself – and began treatment.
After two nights in intensive care, however, Sophie wasn’t responding and so was transported to the Christie Hospital, Manchester, for further tests on her blood and bone marrow.
That’s when it hit us. This was something really serious.
“When we arrived at Christies, even before the tests were carried out, the doctors told us ‘We’re looking at leukaemia. I think that was the single worst moment in my life. You just don’t think about these things happening to your child.
“It was so hard to believe that one day she was fine, then what started like a cold, a few days later is leukaemia. It’s only when you’re faced with something like this you start to read up about it.
“Broadly, there are two types of leukaemia – chronic and acute. Acute acts fast and is brutal. That’s what Sophie had. She needed treatment immediately.”
Adrian says it became a whirlwind of decisions, and procedures:
“You go into survival mode; you have so many emotions but you need to stay strong for her, too.”
Sophie was immediately put on a treatment plan that involved aggressive chemotherapy. The treatment was a success and, six months later, Adrian says life is starting to show signs of returning to normal.
“She’s an outpatient at Christies now. She’s enrolled back at Burnley College, who have been amazing and provided as much support as she’s needed. It’s been highs and lows over the last six months, with some really dark times, but now she’s in treatment-related remission.”
It was during these dark times that the idea of Captain Underpants was born. Adrian wanted to do something positive, not just for Sophie, but for all children battling cancer in Lancashire.
“I became aware of a group called ‘Young Lives vs Cancer’ – a national charity who support young people facing all aspects of the disease.
“Until you end up in a situation like this there are so many things you don’t even consider. It was costing more than £100 a week just in fuel alone – as well as food and accommodation. It adds up so quickly.
“My wife and I are really fortunate to have amazing employers who worked with us to ensure we had the time and resources we needed to be with Sophie through this time, but I understand other employers aren’t able to do that.
“That could leave families unable to pay the mortgage, or visit their child. Having the support of a charity like Young Lives vs Cancer made a huge difference to us, and to so many other families in the same situation. I had to say thank you and raise, if not money, then some awareness for them.
“The first thing I did was the Yorkshire Three Peaks with 20 colleagues. We raised more than £4,000.
“I then set my sights on running the London Marathon in April 2024. That’s when the idea of Captain Underpants came to me. I could do all my training as this silly-superhero character. Your fundraising – the first three letters are F U N.
“At first I worried a bit thinking my daughters would be embarrassed then I thought, if I can put a smile on someone's face, if I can raise awareness about childhood cancer and also raise some money for research, then it's worth looking a little silly.
“And it’s working! I’m getting so much support from passing motorists – cheers out of the window, people pulling over and giving me cash.
“I’ve had businesses contact me, too, and sponsor me. It’s just been incredible. Even if I only raise a few thousand pounds, I know the work Young Lives vs Cancer will do with it will help out so many people facing the same situation asour family and Sophie.
“As much as there is still a long way to go, we have to realise we are lucky – not every family has the same outcome. Even if it involves me making a fool of myself and Sophie being a little bit embarrassed, whatever I can do to help them and young people with cancer, is totally worth it.”
So, if you see a giant yellow figure sprinting down your street, give a cheer for Captain Underpants. He’s not just a masked man in some giant underpants. He’s a dad, a fundraiser, a beacon of hope, and most importantly, he’s a superhero.
You can pledge your money towards Adrian’s marathon run HERE.
Or you can learn more on his dedicated Facebook page HERE.