Friday 29th September is World Heart Day and leading local health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) will be marking the occasion with a special event at Hillsborough Forest in memory of those who have sadly left us much too soon due to a chest, heart or stroke illness, and in support of the up to 1 in 3 people across NI currently living with one of these devastating health conditions.
Sixteen people have a heart attack every day in Northern Ireland and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is the biggest single cause of premature deaths (in people younger than 75). Regrettably, too many families here know the heartbreak of losing a loved one in this way, including Queen’s University Belfast student Gabrielle Johnston and her mum Joanne from Lisburn. Gabrielle explains; “We got involved with NICHS and started fundraising to support their care services and research after the sudden death of my Daddy, Gary, from a heart attack last June. He was only 50 years old when he died. We’ve since taken part in and organised lots of events to both raise awareness and make a difference to the lives of people in our community, from the Red Dress Fun Run at Stormont Estate in February, to abseiling down the front of the Europa Hotel this summer. We also organised a bingo night and my Dad’s brother Stephen and his friends hosted a pool tournament in his memory on the one-year anniversary of his death.”
“Through all these events, as a family we have collectively raised over £5,000 to help NICHS to continue their vital work, but even more importantly to us, lots of people who knew Daddy, or hear our story, say that they are now more conscious about looking after their own heart health.”
The Johnston family and NICHS team are hoping that the local community will step up on the last Friday in September and show support for their cause and vision of a healthier Northern Ireland free from chest, heart and stroke illnesses. Walk To Remember is a 2K sunset stroll around the lake at Hillsborough Forest. It is for all ages and abilities (dogs on leads are welcome) and offers a chance for friends and families to come together at this stunning setting to walk, talk, and celebrate the life and share happy memories of loved ones.
Event organiser, NICHS’s Donor Development Manager, Nadia Duncan commented; “So many of the lovely people we meet who want to fundraise for us, are doing so in tribute to a loved one lost to a chest, heart or stroke illness and they have a strong desire, despite their grief, to want to help other families to not have to live through that awful experience.”
“We live such busy lives but an event such as Walk To Remember allows us to take some time away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday life and come together to walk in memory of those who may no longer be with us, but who will always live on in our hearts. We all deal with grief in very different ways. Some of us may want to remember someone on our own at a special place, but others take comfort in being together in company to share special memories of their loved one. As a very positive and hopeful outcome, any money raised by taking part in Walk To Remember will enable NICHS to continue to lead the fight against chest, heart and stroke illnesses for the benefit of future generations. We would like to give our heartfelt thanks to our event supporter Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, The Hillside, Hillsborough, Hillmount Garden Centres and Royal Hillsborough Fort Guard Bugler, Andrew Carlisle, who has certainly stepped up for us today.”
Along the way of the walk, children (and the young at heart) will be entertained exploring the exciting new Digital Sculpture Trail, the first of its kind in Ireland, helping visitors discover a hidden world in the forest via the new exciting augmented reality app. Participants can stop off at a viewing platform to throw a memory stone into the lake, or at the bird feeding station to meet some of the friendly, feathered residents and at dusk, after a live musical performance from the wonderful Lisburn & Banbridge Ukes, as the sun sets, write a messages of love and remembrance on the NICHS Always In My Heart Memory Wall.