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Dan, Naomi and Ocean Birch


For Dan and Naomi Birch, it has been 12 weeks like no other, writes Fraser Watson

Back in October the couple welcomed their baby daughter, Ocean, into the world. Born 10 weeks premature, she has been treated at the Heath Hospital in Cardiff ever since and has undergone multiple surgeries. 

But throughout, her courage has shone through, as has that of her parents. And now, the sporting community in Pembrokeshire of which the couple are very much part of is coming together to offer help and support – and all in the name of friendly competition. 

Dan is currently the club captain at Milford Haven RFC and was instrumental in the Mariners winning promotion from Division Three West A in their 2018/19 campaign. Prior to joining The Mariners he was a key player for several seasons at Haverfordwest, and has also made numerous football appearances for Merlins Bridge AFC. 

He is also a member of CrossFit Pembrokeshire as is his wife Naomi. Indeed, back in November 2019 it was Naomi who finished second in her category in the UK wide CrossFit Open. 

And all of the above clubs have now started a special challenge to see whose members can run the most miles before March 1st, with totals monitored via Strava groups. In the meantime, their efforts will raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House in Cardiff, a place where Dan and Naomi have been staying ever since Ocean was born. 

Clubbing together: 

One man instrumental in organising things was Mike Jones, a close friend of the Birch family and a former teammate of Dan’s at Haverfordwest. 

“I’d obviously followed Ocean’s story since her birth and had noticed the strain everything was putting on Dan’s positivity and wellbeing, so looked at ways to help give him and Naomi a lift,” he told

“Dan always speaks so highly of what the Ronald McDonald Foundation and their Cardiff House have done for him and his family and I knew that raising money for this cause could be the way to help. 

“The boys have always been really supportive of local charities, working closely with Get the Boys a Lift and raising money for the Maisie Moo Foundation every November, so I knew they’d get on board with this challenge.” 

Mike said it made sense to involve other clubs who were also close to the couple’s hearts, and that a bit of ‘competitive banter’ would secure the donations that the charity merits. 

“Within a day I had the green light from Dan and the challenge was accepted by the three other clubs involved. Pembrokeshire has an amazing community spirit and local sport can do amazing things when people come together.” 

The original target of £500 was promptly passed and therefore reset to £2000, which would be enough to cover the cost of Dan and Naomi’s stay at Cardiff House for 12 weeks. By Saturday morning however, and still with more than a month of the challenge to go, the total had already exceeded £2500. 

Of course, no club involved will want to lose – but Jones and co realise the bigger picture. 

“Each club wants to win the competition but most importantly, we all want to show our support for the Birch family and raise as much money as possible for the charity. Thankyou to everyone who has donated so far and we hope you all enjoy the challenge.” 

Birch family ‘blown away’ by kindness: 

Dan himself, said the family had nothing but gratitude for the gesture. 

“There is so much I can say,” he admitted. 

“But through the hardest time in our lives we are absolutely overwhelmed and blown away by the kindness and generosity from so many people, from family and friends to complete strangers. 

“People have been bringing things from home, cooking us food and even doing clothes washing. In these tough times we have seen so much good.” 

A challenge with perspective: 

It has been a barren time for those of us within Pembrokeshire Sport. Not being able to play team games, take part in endurance events, go to gyms, or even socialise with teammates down the local – all issues that have left many longing and despairing in equal measures. 

And yet, never far away is a story like Dan and Naomi’s – a situation which puts all the above ‘problems’ into true perspective. 

But while sport has been halted, here is another example of how sport still has the power to bring people together – albeit virtually. The mere gesture, let alone the money raised, will reinforce to Dan and Naomi that in the most lonely of times, they and baby Ocean are anything but alone. 

To donate to the cause, visit Crowdfunding to the Ronald McDonald House in Cardiff. In support of our good friend and former team mate Dan Birch and his family. on JustGiving