Nearly 30 years years ago two mothers whose babies were born with fatal heart defects set up a Mid Sussex branch of the British Heart Foundation.
They turned their grief into something positive to focus on, despite their tremendous loss.
This year after decades of selfless and largely unheralded work the group has reached a milestone of raising £1 million to help people with heart problems.
The money has come from a huge range of activities, from small coffee mornings on sometimes blustery winter days, to sunny garden fetes, walks across the South Downs in all weathers and horse riding among the events.
Last weekend its latest fun-raiser, The Heart of Sussex Sponsored Horse Ride, was held at St Helena Farm in Plumpton Green.
Always looking to bring a fresh approach to its fund-raising the group introduced leading rein and a dog walk course to the event to stimulate wider interest.
People supporting the group’s activities often have their own deeply personal reasons for doing so. Some have lost friends and relatives to heart disease and others walk in gratitude for successful operations that have either saved their lives or greatly improved the quality of them.
Important steps such as improvements in operations to unblock arteries, with the use of latest technology and better quality stents to support arteries, all benefit from research funded by thousands of people supporting the charity’s efforts over the years. And new equipment has also been bought.
Behind all the local activity has been a small but effective committee, changing over the years but all dedicated to raising money for the Foundation.
A graphic example of how fund-raising can have practical implications happened only a few weeks ago.
The Mid Sussex Times reported how a Haywards Heath man saved his father’s life by remembering CPR revival advice from the Foundation, after the father collapsed from a heart attack.
The man has made a good recovery and last week, through the Middy, thanked everyone who had helped him. The funding provided by local groups like the Mid Sussex one helps the Foundation pay for such initiatives as the Vinnie Jones-Bee Gees television advertisement promoting CPR that the man’s son remembered while reviving him.
Commenting on the practical aspects of the group’s work Simon Cartwright, chairman of the Mid Sussex Branch of the British Heart Foundation said: “Pioneering research, patient care and providing vital information are all key parts of the British Heart Foundation’s role.
So when we heard how the recent Vinnie Jones-Bee Gees awareness campaign had helped to save Anthony’s life it was very exciting.”
The Mid Sussex Branch of The British Heart Foundation was set up about 27 years ago by two mothers who had children born with heart defects, who both sadly died. One of the ladies, Jane Green, became the chairman.
The original office was in Ticehurst with John Thomson as chairman, who volunteered because he had suffered a heart attack himself. In those early days there was just an annual swim to raise money.
Jane Green managed to get a hard working committee together including Janie Taylor, who has been fund raising for the Foundation for nearly 25 years.
About five years ago, Jane handed over the chairmanship to Simon Cartwright who has steered the committee through some successful years in extremely hard times.
Fund-raising has taken all shapes and forms from Dessert Orchid coming to a special fund raising day at Plumpton Race Course to Josephine Barstow doing an opera evening in The Gardeners Theatre.
Members recall that events that were the most hard work were the food stops at the London to Brighton Bike ride and the teenage balls.
Last year one of the members, Vanessa Bennett, hosted a theatre evening in her beautiful garden, which raised nearly £6,000 after expenses.
In the past few years the group has also organised some very enjoyable summer lunches with guest speakers being Josceline Dimbleby in 2011 and more recently Rupert Toovey of Tooveys Auctioneers which raised an amazing £7,000 towards life saving heart research.
Annual events provide regular income and the successful walk along the South Downs called the Heart of Sussex Walk, is one of them, along with the Plumpton Green horse ride.
Another yearly event is the coffee morning-gift fair in Lindfield each October and the group organises Santa in the Park, a fun run in Haywards Heath.
Donations made locally include The Princess Royal Hospital at Haywards Heath and the Royal Sussex County Hospital at Brighton, which have each received various sophisticated pieces of diagnostic machinery.
Three GP surgeries, at Lindfield, Hassocks and Newick have had money towards defibrillators, as has the Dolphin leisure centre at Haywards Heath and some first response doctors.
As the Mid Sussex Group says: “People always ask where the money goes!”
They certainly know where it has come from as the group looks towards more milestones in fund-raising to save lives.