Like many people during lockdown, Pam Gillies from Jordanstown found a new hobby in running. Pam says; “Before the first lockdown, I found it hard to get the time to exercise between working full-time and managing a busy family life. Being at home and not having to commute or do the school run with my three boys, provided me with the perfect opportunity to try something that I always wanted to do but previously never had time for – running! I started the Couch to 5K programme and was instantly hooked - even the boys started to come out running with me.”
When her son Ollie, 13, asked if she would like to take on a 5K run a day challenge throughout the month of January, Pam automatically said yes.
It wasn’t until a few days into the challenge that the duo decided to raise money for charity as Pam explains; “When we were running on Day 5, Ollie said we should be using our running to fundraise for a good cause. We automatically decided upon Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke because a few years ago, my brother Paul, suddenly passed away from a heart attack. He was just 53.”
“Also, I am a Director within the Accountancy Firm, BDO Northern Ireland and at the end of last year we began a two-year corporate partnership with Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke to help support their work. This, along with what happened to Paul, made the charity the natural choice for our fundraising.”
Come rain or shine, snow or ice, Pam and Ollie put their trainers on and ran 5K every day in January. Finishing the challenge on 31st January was particularly poignant for the pair as the following day, 1st February, marked three years since the sudden passing of Paul.
Pam explains; “Paul’s death came totally out of the blue, so it was a terrible shock. I am now very aware of the importance of heart health and I encourage the kids to be aware of this too and of how being active and making healthy choices can really help.”
February is National Heart Month, when Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke (NICHS) encourage people to think about their cardiovascular health, the steps they can take towards a healthier, stronger heart and to seek medical advice if they feel something isn’t right.
Fidelma Carter, Head of Public Health at NICHS says; “Pam’s brother Paul’s passing from a heart attack is deeply sad. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t realise they are actually having a heart attack and the signs and symptoms are more varied than you would think. This National Heart Month we are urging people to remember the acronym STOP - if you notice yourself or someone else presenting with any of these symptoms, don’t wait, call an ambulance immediately.”
The STOP acronym stands for:
S – Something’s not right – symptoms can start slowly
T – Tightness or pain in the chest, pain in the arm, neck or jaw
O – Other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea or sweating
P – Phone 999 immediately.
Pam and Ollie’s efforts have seen them raise an amazing £6,325 for the local health charity. Pam says; “We didn’t start out with a specific fundraising target, but people really got behind us which was amazing, and we are delighted to be able to give the charity such a substantial amount. The support of the local community when we were out running was great too, with people cheering us on, joining us for some of the runs and honking their car horns in encouragement.”
The challenge hasn’t just benefitted NICHS however, as Ollie explains; “Doing the challenge has helped me get fitter and I feel better. I am faster on the rugby pitch and my stamina has improved a lot. It was fun doing the challenge with my mum.”
For Pam, the challenge meant more time with Ollie; “The time I spent with Ollie running was priceless. I got 30-40 minutes every day with him when we weren’t busy doing other things. I felt a bit sad once we finished the challenge because it was lovely to spend that time together.”
Jackie Trainor, Director of Income Generation at NICHS says; ““We are very thankful to Pam and Ollie for completing this challenge and raising a fantastic sum of money in support of our charity- what an achievement!”
“Today, there are over 335,000 people living with a chest, heart or stroke condition in Northern Ireland - that's one in five of the population. Nearly 90% of NICHS’s care and prevention services and research projects are funded exclusively by donations so fundraising efforts like Pam’s and Ollie’s, as well as corporate support like that from BDO Northern Ireland, are vital for our charity and what we can achieve. The money raised by our supporters enables us to continue to help the local community and provide life-changing services for people living with chest, heart and stroke conditions and their families.”
If you have been inspired by Pam and Ollie’s story you can find out more about the many different ways to support NICHS at nichs.org.uk/how-you-can-help
If you would like more information on how your organisation or business can work with the charity, visit nichs.org.uk/fundraise-at-work