Annemarie Gallagher says finding out your child has cancer is the worst news you can hear as a parent.

Her son Josh, 9, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a type of brain cancer, when he was 4. He is a survivor, although he had to learn to walk and talk again, which he has done with the help of the Child Cancer Foundation of New Zealand.

Gallagher is the Lake City Athletic Club's Rotorua Marathon Clinic convener and this year participants in the annual running clinic will have the chance to support the foundation which helped her son, and hundreds of others, make it through.

She also employs Josh Coleman, 17, who was diagnosed with the same type of cancer when he was 7, at Arista Group in Rotorua. The pair of survivors have been affectionately dubbed "big Josh and little Josh".

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Each year participants in the running clinic are put into packs with others doing the same distance - 10km, half marathon or full marathon - with a similar expected finishing time to prepare for the Rotorua Marathon event on May 5. But this year there is a twist.

"Obviously I'm a 'cancer mum' and Josh [Coleman] works for us. Donna [Josh's mother] and I have often talked about doing something involving big Josh and little Josh because they had the same type of cancer," Gallagher said.

Running Clinic convener Annemarie Gallagher (left), cancer survivors Josh Gallagher and Josh Coleman, and Peter Bloore are helping raise funds for the Child Cancer Foundation. Photo / Ben Fraser
Running Clinic convener Annemarie Gallagher (left), cancer survivors Josh Gallagher and Josh Coleman, and Peter Bloore are helping raise funds for the Child Cancer Foundation. Photo / Ben Fraser

"Each running pack will come up with its own name, mine is the Redwood Warriors, and they each will be set up with an Everyday Hero fundraising page online to raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation.

"The group that fundraises the most, our company, the Arista Group, will give them a $1000 prize. The boys are the focus, they are our mascots, and we've even printed T-shirts for the campaign."

She said the foundation was instrumental in supporting families dealing with child cancer.

"It's about the worst thing anyone can go through, finding out your child has cancer. It's a never-ending journey. For a while there we went to more kids' funerals than birthday parties.

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"Josh [Gallagher] can't balance on a two-wheel bike and he really wanted to do the Weet-Bix TRYathlon. He can run and he can swim, but he couldn't do the ride. This year the foundation bought him a $2000 specialised trike, made just for him. That's the sort of thing the foundation does."

The cancer made Josh Coleman neutropenic, meaning he lacked the white blood cells that fight infection. The Child Cancer Foundation paid to have his home completely re-carpeted to ensure he was at less risk of infection.

Gallagher was previously a "solo runner" but she gave the clinics a go and loved it, before becoming involved with organising them.

"The clinics are for anyone, it doesn't matter your size or your previous experience, anyone can come along. It's running with other people, you make lots of friends and we have lots of really good social events.

"It's also a really good way to get to know the forest, you get taken on paths you wouldn't normally go down running on your own."

There is a running clinic information evening at Neil Hunt Park at 7pm tomorrow before the first clinic session on Sunday morning.