Heart Heroes Relay for children with Heart Conditions

Stepping out to help children with heart conditions

Hundreds of supporters and friends of Gloucester charity Heart Heroes are stepping out to take part in a walking challenge launched to mark February’s Heart Month.

And to help the challenge go viral, Heart Heroes has teamed up with the award-winning team that created Welba, whose founder was recognised by the Queen for helping the NHS during the pandemic.

Heart Heroes, which supports children who live with heart conditions and their families, has launched the Heart Heroes Relay.

By registering via the Welba app, each participant donates £5 to take part and walks 5km (or three miles). They then pass on the baton by nominating three more people to take part.

Heart Heroes founder, Kelly Cornish, hopes the #HeartHeroesRelay will raise awareness and funds, drive support for heart families, and encourage people to take some healthy exercise.

“We asked our families to get the ball rolling, and they have been spreading the word by nominating their friends to take part too,” said Kelly. “We hope the challenge will go viral, as it’s a fun one to take part in. We even have people in wheelchairs taking part, and that is fantastic. They just have to complete the 5km, then pass the baton on.”

Welba app founder, Oli Coles, has a son with a heart condition, which prompted him to get involved. Oli, from Chipping Norton, was awarded a BEM by the Queen, in recognition for the Hospitality for Heroes campaign he launched, to deliver quality food to NHS staff during the pandemic (£250,000 was raised and 150,000 meals were delivered). He also organised an online fundraising concert for International Nurses Day, which featured Mel C, Jack Savoretti and James Blunt.

“Before we even launched we had more than 70 people ready to start, and each of those will go on to nominate three more people, so we have the opportunity to spread the challenge far and wide,” said Oli. “The very people who are activating this are families like mine, as my son has a heart condition.”

Oli’s son Ozzy, who is just over a year old, has Tetralogy of Fallot, and has already undergone open heart surgery twice. He will need more surgery in the future.

“He’s doing really well, on the verge of walking, eats well, he’s an absolute dream and you wouldn’t know – as with so many heart children – that there was anything wrong with him, because it is very much a hidden disability,” said Oli. “This is why the Heart Heroes Relay is as much about awareness as about fundraising.”

As well as families and friends participating, medics from Bristol Royal Infirmary’s cardiac team and members of South West Congenital Heart Disease Network are also joining in, along with Heart Heroes’ corporate supporters.

The relay challenge in the Welba app connects to trackers, including Apple Watch, Apple Health, Google Fit and Strava, so walkers can record their time and distance, and there is a leaderboard showing the top performers. The app also handles all donations and distribution to Heart Heroes charity.

The relay is just one event that Heart Heroes is staging for Heart Month. Its regional hubs are also organising their own challenges, which anyone can take part in. These include ‘heart’ sewing kits, where each stitched heart is incorporated into one large heart-shaped tapestry.

They are also organising a paint-a-long on Zoom, where participants will create painted hearts, which will also be put together in a big heart picture.

Finally, Bristol Bears rugby club are holding a collection at one of their games in February, to collect funds for Heart Heroes.

Kelly said: “All the money we raise for this will help fund our own Heart Heroes App for our heart families, which will have lots of information on, with the aim of making hospital visits less daunting for the children.”

To register to take part in the Heart Heroes Relay, visit https://welba.app/heart-heroes-relay/

For more information, visit https://heartheroes.co.uk/.