I CAN

HEART HEROES I CAN PROJECT

Heart Heroes is a South West-based charity supporting families with children affected by CHD. Through Hubs located in Gloucestershire, South Wales, Oxfordshire and Worcestershire the charity, led by founder Kelly Cornish, currently supports 647 families through shared networks, counselling and emotional well-being services, and by providing specialist equipment and experiences for disadvantaged families.

 

One of Heart Heroes’ main strands of work involves organising regular inclusive and inspiring CHD-friendly activities for affected children, where the focus is very much on what the children can do, rather than what they can’t. The Gloucestershire Hub’s I CAN project was conceived as a six-month programme in 2021 with the aim of bringing members of the CHD community together (physically and virtually) to mitigate the isolating effects of the pandemic. 

 

Kelly explains: “The focus from the very start of the I CAN project was on celebrating abilities, not disabilities, through organising practical workshops and activities for children with CHD and their siblings in areas they may not have had the opportunity to explore before. Children with heart conditions often miss out on normal activities in school, whether because teachers are not comfortable in allowing them to take part, or because the children themselves do not have the confidence to take part. Children who undergo surgery are required to isolate for a length of time and the pandemic has impacted the length of isolation even further of course. The I CAN project was specifically designed to help children with CHD reduce their anxiety levels after the pandemic, socialise again and build their confidence in taking part in physical activities safely.”

 

Launching in September 2021, the programme secured funding for 30 children with CHD to take part in a monthly masterclass run by expert tutors:

I CAN COOK

I CAN EXERCISE

I CAN DRUM

I CAN CREATE

I CAN ACT

I CAN GARDEN 

 

The impact for those taking part has been evident in the feedback Heart Heroes has received from parents of the children taking part: 

 

“I CAN is a one-of-a-kind group. Our daughter often can’t be left at activities outside of school due to her complex needs, but we know that Kelly and the team understand those needs, giving us the confidence to leave her. This allows her the same opportunities as her less complex twin and the chance to develop her confidence and independence through a range of amazing activities. They both love I CAN and to see