A year ago Kurt Buchanan was eating away his grief over the death of his 6-year-old son.

Now he's 40kg lighter and about to tackle a half marathon to raise money for charity in memory of Elias.

Just before Christmas 2017, Elias became sick. Doctors didn't think it was serious but when his parents found him having a seizure he was rushed to Tauranga Hospital before being sent to Starship.

Elias Buchanan, 6, died from febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome in January 2018. Photo / Supplied
Elias Buchanan, 6, died from febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome in January 2018. Photo / Supplied

Doctors struggled to figure out what was wrong with him and on January 4, 2018, Elias died.

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He had febrile infection-related epilepsy syndrome - a disease researchers believe affects only about one in a million children and adolescents.

The stress and grief drove Buchanan to depression and eating. During the time Elias was in hospital he put on 10kg and in the three months after he gained another 19kg.

"After Elias passed I was in a pretty bad place and was severely depressed and had suicidal thoughts," he said. "I was just eating and putting on weight and was in a really bad place."

Kurt Buchanan's weight ballooned after he ate for comfort following the death of his son Elias. Now he's lost 40kg and is doing a half marathon. Pictured with wife Becca. Photo / Supplied
Kurt Buchanan's weight ballooned after he ate for comfort following the death of his son Elias. Now he's lost 40kg and is doing a half marathon. Pictured with wife Becca. Photo / Supplied

In April last year he decided to start training in an effort to get healthier both physically and mentally in honour of Elias and for the benefit of his three other children and pregnant wife.

It started with a 4am trip up Mount Maunganui every morning: "I was embarrassed about my weight so I wanted to do it in the dark." From there he got involved in CrossFit.

While the initial motivation was losing weight, the exercise also helped mentally.

"I had quite a lot of anger towards everything that happened. Exercise became an outlet for all that."

Kurt Buchanan weighed 129kg in 2018. His weight ballooned after he ate for comfort following the death of his son Elias. Now he's lost 40kg and is doing a half marathon. Photo / Supplied
Kurt Buchanan weighed 129kg in 2018. His weight ballooned after he ate for comfort following the death of his son Elias. Now he's lost 40kg and is doing a half marathon. Photo / Supplied

At his heaviest Buchanan weighed 129kg but was now down to 88kg and ready to take on his next challenge in memory of Elias.

He and wife Becca are taking part in the Pay What You Want Tauranga Half Marathon on April 15 in memory of Elias and to raise money for Ronald McDonald House.

Buchanan, who was also born with clubfoot, which makes running more difficult for him, was training to run the whole 21km while his wife planned to walk the 10km course.

The run was also a way for the family to give back to a charity which supported them by asking people to sponsor their run.

It wasn't just the accommodation provided by Ronald McDonald House that the Buchanans were grateful for.

Kurt Buchanan's weight ballooned after he ate for comfort following the death of his son Elias. Now he's lost 40kg and is doing a half marathon. Photo / Supplied
Kurt Buchanan's weight ballooned after he ate for comfort following the death of his son Elias. Now he's lost 40kg and is doing a half marathon. Photo / Supplied

"On Christmas morning we opened the door, and at that time we had no thought process to think about buying presents for the other kids, and we walked out the door and down the hallway were huge sacks of presents for each family," he said.

"The put on a big brunch for us and the kids got to open presents that we didn't buy but someone else did for them. It made a really tough time a lot easier."

Ronald McDonald House chief executive Wayne Howett said the funds they raised would go a long way to providing a "home-away-from-home" for the families who needed their service.

Kurt Buchanan lost 40kg in honour of his son Elias and is now taking part in a half marathon. Pictured with wife Becca and children Judah, Esme and Teagan. Photo / Supplied
Kurt Buchanan lost 40kg in honour of his son Elias and is now taking part in a half marathon. Pictured with wife Becca and children Judah, Esme and Teagan. Photo / Supplied

"I am extremely touched that the Buchanan family has chosen to remember their son Elias in such a thoughtful and meaningful way."

The charity provided more than 4300 families with free accommodation throughout the country last year - the busiest year since it opened in New Zealand almost 30 years ago.

About Ronald McDonald House

• The cost of providing a family with one night's accommodation, a welcome pack and meal staples is $210.
• 4344 families were hosted in 160 rooms last year - 591 more than in 2017.
• 43,210 night of accommodation were provided last year
• The charity saved families $11 million worth of accommodation, meals and other costs last year.