AFTER two cleft lip and palate operations an Abingdon toddler is starting to speak his first words.

Thomas Stevens, 17 months, was born with a cleft lip and palate at the John Radcliffe Hospital on July 20 last year.

But he is well on the way to stringing sentences together after two operations at the Oxford Children’s Hospital in Headington.

To thank staff for the care of his son, dad Freddy Stevens, from Crosslands Drive, Abingdon, is taking on the OX5 Run to raise money for the hospital.

The 32-year-old, who works at Johnsons Cars in Botley Road, said: “It is heartbreaking to find out. Clefts were completely unknown to us.

“But the hospital staff talked us through it, they are brilliant – from the surgeons to the nurses – and the facilities are amazing.

“Without them we wouldn’t have got through it as well as we have.”

Thomas had his first operation in 2012, his second in April this year, and still has speech therapy at the hospital.

Mr Stevens said: “He’s going from strength to strength and is starting to talk. He says “hiya” and “mama” and chases after the cat calling its name, Fudge.”

Thomas may have to have one or two more operations but his development is similar to other children of his age.

Mum Laura Stevens, 30 added: “The hospital has done an amazing job for Thomas. I can’t describe how good the nurses are.

“It was a difficult time because we didn’t know anyone else who had it and it felt like we were the only ones. But the hospital’s support was faultless.”

Mr Stevens is hoping to raise £500 by running the five-mile OX5 Run on March 30.

He is running with best friend Ben Ewers, of Witney, and colleague Owen Deli, of Kildlington.

The annual charity run, organised by the Oxford Mail and sponsored by Allen Associates, is at Blenheim Palace. The 2013 run raised more than £98,000.

Children’s hospital spokesman Sarah Vaccari said: “It’s great to hear that Thomas is doing so well and we are thrilled that his dad Freddy is taking part in the OX5RUN again next year.

“As Freddy understands, no-one knows when they may need the help of the Children’s Hospital.

“So we hope his story will inspire other people to sign up for the five mile run and help thousands of needy children.”


  • The Oxford Mail OX5 Run is a five-mile run around the grounds of Blenheim Palace, now in its 12th year. s The run has raised more than £500,000 for the children’s hospital and supports children’s care across Oxford University Hospitals Trust, including the Children’s Ward and Children’s A&E at the Horton General Hospital, Children’s Intensive Care and Newborn Units and other children’s out-patient departments across the trust.
  • The next run will take place on Sunday, March 30, next year, starting at 10.30am.
  • It costs £10 to enter and we ask all runners to aim to raise £100 or more.
  • To find out more information please go to or complete the adjacent form.