Lucy's Story

Mum calls for support of Mencap, the charity that helped her daughter walk and talk. Ahead of the 2017 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon, local Mum shares why race participants should support the event’s official charity partner
Lucy and Laura Copeland

With the 2017 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon just weeks away, a Belfast Mum is calling on runners and walkers across Northern Ireland to support learning disability charity Mencap, the official charity of the marathon.

Laura Copeland is the mum of Lucy Copeland, who turns four years old in May. When Lucy was nine weeks old, Laura noticed her daughter wasn’t feeding and she discovered she had a heart murmur. She took her daughter to a cardiologist and a week later Lucy was diagnosed with Williams syndrome, a rare developmental disorder.

“That week was the longest week of my life,” Laura said. “Once we got the diagnosis for Lucy, I was worried and anxious and just didn’t know what the future was going to bring.”

When Lucy was six months old, a therapist told Laura about Mencap’s Children’s Centre, for 2-to 3-year-olds with a learning disability, autism or developmental delay.

Lucy started at Mencap at age two and since then, Laura has seen amazing improvements. She said:

“When Lucy started at Mencap, her skills were limited.  All she could say was ‘Mummy’, ‘Daddy’ and ‘Hiya’. She also couldn’t walk. After a year at Mencap’s nursery, however, Lucy is an absolute chatterbox and can walk freely on her own. She made great friends at the nursery and forged a strong bond with her key worker, Lynsey Dempster, whose help has been invaluable.

“Lucy is now at a different school, but the year she spent at Mencap was vital. It was crucial for my husband and me as well. The Mencap team advised us on any problems we shared and they introduced us to other parents of children with a learning disability.

“I encourage anyone who is thinking of fundraising for Mencap for the Marathon this year to do so. The team at Mencap is excellent and their work with Lucy transformed her life and ours. Lucy can now communicate ‘I love you, Mummy’. I can’t thank Mencap enough for believing in Lucy and knowing what she was capable of.”

More than 52 children attend Mencap’s Children’s Centre and even more children and young people use additional services at the Mencap Centre, including after school clubs and holiday play schemes. The Mencap Children’s Centre works in partnership with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.   

Margaret Kelly, Director, Mencap Northern Ireland said: 

“We would like to thank the Copeland family for sharing their story. Lucy Copeland is one example of the wonderful children who spend time at our Children’s Centre.

“To reach more children like Lucy, we urgently need funds to keep crucial programmes running and help us launch new initiatives to reach as many families as we can across Northern Ireland. Later this year, we will launch our Early Years Service, to offer bespoke guidance to families like the Copelands with a child diagnosed with a learning disability.

“We encourage everyone to sign up to #StepUp4Mencap at the 2017 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon. Whether you’re raising money and training for the full marathon, the Fun Run or the team relay, all donations will help children like Lucy have the best chance at a full life.”

The deadline to sign up for the 2017 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Marathon is Friday 14th April 2017. To register in aid of Mencap, email, call 02890 691 351 or visit