Lachy Gillespie is best known as the Purple Wiggle but this month, the superstar singer is adding another title to his repertoire — athlete!
The much-loved children’s entertainer has committed to running 100 kilometres over the month of November to help raise funds for Running for Premature Babies.
To coincide with Prematurity Awareness Month, the Running for Premature Babies charity encourages people to participate in their Premmie Marathon Challenge and walk, swim, cycle or run as they raise money for the worthy cause. All money raised from participants goes towards purchasing life-saving equipment used in neonatal units in hospitals across the country. And with almost one in ten babies born prematurely (before 37 weeks) in Australia, it’s an issue impacting the lives of so many Aussie families.
Indeed, it’s something Lachy feels passionately about after his twin daughters Lulu and Lottie, who he shares with his fiancée, ballet dancer Dana Stephenson, arrived several weeks early in September 2020.
Teaming up with the charity as their ambassador, Lachy tells Kiindred in an exclusive interview that his work with the organisation gives him immense pride.
“As soon as I started running and posting about it, I got so many wonderful parents reaching out saying how much [the charity has] helped them,” Lachy explains.
Running for Premature Babies was founded by Sophie Smith and her late husband Ash after they lost their prematurely born triplets to complications after their premature birth in 2006. When their babies were in the hospital, Sophie and Ash realised that most of the machines that kept their boys alive were donated and learned that the hospital relies on fundraising for 70% of the equipment in the unit.
Lachy says that touring the NICU ward at the Royal Women’s Hospital Randwick in Sydney recently really hammered home just how much equipment Sophie has managed to source thanks to her tireless fundraising efforts.
“For me to be able to go into the Sydney hospital, where a lot of the equipment that Sophie’s raised money for, it’s literally the entire ward!” he says.
“That’s really powerful when you actually see babies in these humidicribs and using the equipment… You realise how important it is and how Sophie’s children sadly would have been so much better off if that if the equipment was around 15, 16 years ago.”
Although Lachy is currently in Canada on The Wiggles Big Show Tour, he’s still managing to find time to train for his 100-km in hotel gyms and has committed to sneaking in his runs whenever the moment presents itself.
“I’ve been doing treadmill runs, which is good. I’m hoping I can do a lot of them outside too, especially when we get back home in November. I think it works out like three km a day,” the 37-year-old explains of his goal.
Reflecting on Lulu and Lottie’s premature birth, the star admits that he and Dana were told ahead of time that the girls would most likely arrive early.
“I think the first thing we were told in a good way is that you know, twins will always be early, mostly. So that was kind of comforting. We had a few little things come up during the pregnancy with the girls’ hearts, and they could never really work out what it was, so we had to wait and see after they were born. It turned out to be nothing so far, which is really good,” the proud dad says.
“The girls were a few weeks premmie and we were in the hospital for about a week just to check their hearts. Everything was OK. We were very fortunate to just be in there one week, but even in that week, we got to see the incredible staff and also the parents that just sit by these little tiny, beautiful babies in the hospital. It’s just little tiny things that happen each day that make a difference, or they undergo another little surgery that makes something a little bit better,” Lachy recalls.
“We weren’t in there very long, but it was still quite a nerve-racking experience when you kind of get to have the babies and then you have to go down to this different ward and see them with tubes up their nose.”
When Lachy and Dana were able to bring the girls home, the couple were supported by both of their mothers as they settled into their new life with twin girls and Dana’s eight-year-old son Jasper from a previous relationship.
Lachy says having their mums around to help with the girls was a total lifeline.
“Dana was able to breastfeed them but they were both really burpy, in pain and crying a lot. But just to have someone else there right at the start to actually hold them so Dana could just lie down and have 20 minutes of sleep.”
Early on in her postnatal period, Dana was diagnosed with postnatal depression and anxiety.
“We had an incredible maternal health nurse and she basically took one look at Dana and did that little test [The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale] to get you how far on or off the scale you are… and Dana was way at the other end of really needing some help,” Lachy reflects.
“So that was pretty confronting, too. I think we would just go on autopilot, and then you stop and realise that she was in a pretty bad way.”
The purple skivvy-wearing star says the biggest lesson they took away from that time was that it all starts with mum’s mental health.
“We still talk about that to this day! The nurse looked at us both and she said ‘You have to put yourself at the top of the pyramid. If you’re not looking after yourself, there’s no way you’re looking after the girls.’ And so that was really, really moving,” he says.
Despite already having Jasper, bringing home twin girls was an entirely new experience for the Australian ballet dancer.
“I suppose in a lot of ways, it was first-time parenting for Dana too because it was just so vastly different to Jasper and the experience she had with that. So, you know, it’s been a massive learning curve, but incredibly rewarding,” the singer says.
Two years down the track, Lachy and Dana’s girls are thriving as they develop their own unique personalities.
With the showbiz gene running strong in their blood, Lachy admits his girls both love performing.
“We haven’t obviously pushed it on them at all, but I think they do love the Wiggles and they love singing and dancing. They’ve just started to put on their own little tutus. Lulu is definitely more out there and Lottie is a bit like me, a little bit more reserved,” he says of their personalities.
Lachy is also relishing in his “beautiful” relationship with his stepson Jasper with the pair forming an instant connection.
“We just seemed to get on from the get-go. We just made each other laugh so nicely. I know how much of a relief and comfort that was to Dana,” he says of their strong bond.
“He’s gotten into a few sports that I like. And again, this just happened naturally. But he’s just a beautiful little boy. And I think he definitely struggled [with the twins] to start with as he was very much an only child and in a beautiful way. Because of COVID, he wasn’t able to meet them till the girls were about six weeks old. So that was weird enough in itself but the girls love him.”
Lachy still can’t believe how lucky he is to be a father of three.
“I’ve always wanted to be a dad. And I always joked with mum that I always wanted girls. I’d always felt I would have girls and I know how lucky we are to have two… it could have gone the other way with boys and that would have been beautiful,” he laughs.
“I think I’ve surprised myself with how much I enjoy it, how much I get out of it and how rewarding it is. I think I’m quite natural at it. I just love every second of it.”
Looking back on the past 12 months, the performer says he’s immensely proud of all the goals the Wiggles have kicked — from their iconic Rolling Stones cover to their sellout stadium tours and expanding the band with the new lineup of members.
As for what’s on the cards for 2023, Lachy is keen to bring the girls on tour with The Wiggles.
“It’s a big touring year again. I’m hoping family-wise that we can tour together. I’ve got this beautiful dream in my head that one day I’ll bring the girls with dad, just for a little bit,” he says of his hopes for 2023.
Want to get involved?
Choose your distance (21km/42km/100km/200km/300km) to complete throughout the month. You can run, walk, cycle, roll or swim! Download the Premmie Marathon Challenge App to track your kms and stay connected! You can even join Lachy’s team for the Premmie Marathon Challenge For more information, visit: www.premmiemarathonchallenge.com