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Miss NI Finalist Gaby Plays Her Part In Raising £73,000 To Support The Fight Against Heart Disease

05 Jun 2023
<p>L to R: Lisa Andrews, Musgrave MarketPlace, Diane Anthony, Musgrave, Gaby Johnston, Miss Northern Ireland 2023 finalist, and Tara Currie, NICHS.</p>

L to R: Lisa Andrews, Musgrave MarketPlace, Diane Anthony, Musgrave, Gaby Johnston, Miss Northern Ireland 2023 finalist, and Tara Currie, NICHS.

In February, leading local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) held their annual event, the Red Dress Fun Run at Stormont Estate. The event was an enormous success, and the charity is delighted to announce the public’s generous support throughout the event campaign has raised £73,000 to help tackle heart disease in Northern Ireland. Sadly, four people die every day from coronary heart disease here and it is the biggest single cause of premature deaths in the under 75s.

The Red Dress Fun Run, supported by MACE and Musgrave MarketPlace, is a five-kilometre event which aims to raise funds for the charity’s care and prevention services and research, as well as awareness for heart disease. What makes the event different is that it is an all-inclusive fun run and people of every generation, age and ability are encouraged to take part by running, walking, dancing, skipping, or wheeling the route.

Gaby with family

Last year the event raised £50,000 so the charity is delighted to have smashed this with a total of £73,000 for 2023. This has only been possible due to their supporters’ dedication and hard work. Many people choose to take part in the Red Dress Fun Run in memory of a loved one who has sadly passed away from a chest, heart or stroke related condition. Supporters like Miss Northern Ireland 2023 finalist, Gaby Johnston. Gaby explains; “I decided to take part with my mummy Joanne and my sister Janine in memory of my daddy. He passed away last year at just 50 years old from a heart related condition.”

“I was living in Spain at the time and mummy phoned one morning to say daddy thought he was having a heart attack. He wasn't sure as he didn’t really know what the signs were. He had a very sore arm and after a lot of convincing from mummy he finally went to the hospital. They confirmed he had had a heart attack and said he would need triple bypass surgery. He couldn't leave the hospital before the operation. There was a six-week waiting list but after four weeks at Lagan Valley Hospital he had another heart attack.”

“I then came home from Spain and daddy suffered a further heart attack. The doctors said they couldn’t wait any longer, the bypass surgery was now not an option, and they would have to put stents in right away. Daddy had the stents surgery and two days later he was allowed home. He was glad to get back to some sort of normality after so many weeks in hospital. Tragically, he passed away the next day.”

Gabby continues; “Mummy found him early that morning. It was just such a terrible shock because only 24 hours earlier we were told he was ok to go home. It has been such a tremendous loss to our family and everyone that knew daddy.”

“The coroner’s report came back a few weeks ago and it found daddy had ischaemic heart disease, also known as coronary heart disease. He didn’t know this, so it has all been a big shock. That is why raising awareness of heart health and the fact that heart problems can affect anyone has become so important to me.”

The Red Dress Fun Run presented the perfect opportunity for Gaby to start doing just that and her involvement has since led to a great partnership with Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke. Gaby says; “The Red Dress Fun Run was brilliant. The weather was amazing for February with the sun shining, people were dressed up and many had brought their dogs. One of my dogs actually won the Best Dressed Dog competition in her red tutu! There was a fantastic atmosphere, and I would whole-heartedly recommend taking part in it next year.”

Gaby with sister Janine

“Since the Red Dress Fun Run, I have done quite a lot of work with NICHS. I volunteered at a pre-loved fashion fundraiser event recently and organised my own fundraising event during the Miss Northern Ireland competition. Part of being a finalist involves working on a ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ initiative, so as part of this I organised a bingo and raffle night event for NICHS which raised £1800, as well as awareness for the charity and chest, heart and stroke conditions. Lots of people who knew daddy came to the event and said afterwards how they are more conscious of their health after what happened to him which is lovely to hear.”

Gaby concludes; “I so enjoyed the Red Dress Fun Run and all the things I am now working on with the charity. I am doing their Europa Abseil soon which will be fun as I am scared of heights! Doing something good in daddy’s memory has helped me and I am glad it is helping Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke too.”

Tara Currie, Events and Marketing Manager at the charity says; “We want to say a huge thank you to Gaby and everyone who supported this year’s Red Dress Fun Run. The support we received this year has been phenomenal and to raise £73,000 is just fantastic. It will go a long way in helping us rebuild thousands of lives and make a lasting change towards heart health in Northern Ireland.”

“As a charity, we rely on the public’s support because almost 90% of our care and prevention services and research is funded exclusively by donations. The funds raised from this event are vital in enabling us to continue to support the local people who need us and to provide life-changing services for them and their families. Services like our Stay Strong Walking Groups which are delivered by our Care team. The walking groups are open to anyone with a heart condition and are specifically designed to increase participant’s confidence to exercise.”

“Post diagnosis many people find the idea of regular exercise daunting, especially if it has not previously been part of their everyday life. Stay Strong Walking Groups are designed to take the fear out of exercising. Participants work at their own pace and are often surprised at how quickly they make progress with our help. The walking groups are also a great source of peer support. They provide an opportunity for people with a heart condition to meet others in the same position, gain support and improve their wellbeing, both physically and mentally.”

Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke’s charity partner MACE, and sister company Musgrave MarketPlace, supported the Red Dress Fun Run. Diane Anthony from Musgrave says; “We are so proud to support NICHS, and this fantastic event, for another year. It was great to see so many people, like Gaby, get behind this worthy cause. We are already looking forward to next year’s Red Dress Fun Run and playing our part in raising vital funds to help local people from across Northern Ireland.”

Planning is already underway for next year’s event and the charity want to make it even bigger and better. Tara says; “We are delighted to announce the date for next year’s live Red Dress Fun Run is Sunday 25th February 2024 so get the date in your diary now! The success of this year’s event has been tremendous, and we have been blown away by the generosity of everyone who took part, and everyone who donated. We want to extend a big thank you to all our supporters and hope to see even more people sign up for the 2024 event.”

If you would like to sign up for the 2024 Red Dress Fun Run, visit

For more information on the range of support services available from NICHS, visit