We caught up with Charlotte Campbell, director of fundraising at Children’s Heart Unit Fund about their history, mission and how you can help…
Christmas is a time to show kindness and give back. So here at Luxe HQ, we’re sharing the story of Children’s Heart Unit Fund, and how you can help them this holiday season.
What inspired the start of Children’s Heart Unit Fund?
Established by the Scott family in 1979, Chuf began as the Lesley Anne Scott Memorial Fund. Lesley Anne was born with a serious heart problem and received treatment at the Children’s Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital. It is one of only two places for paediatric heart transplant in the UK. The most complex cardiac cases are being treated here in the North East.
After Lesley Anne’s death, her mother Anne Scott, along with a small group of heart parents, made it their mission to raise awareness of the unit. When Anne Scott retired as a trustee in 1983, it was her wish that the charity should be renamed The Children’s Heart Unit Fund and so Chuf as we know it today, was born. In 2023 the charity celebrates 40 years of being there when in matters most!
What are the charity’s main goals and ambitions?
Chuf’s vision is to support pioneering services that positively impact heart families. As well as inspire hope, and enable Heart Heroes to reach their fullest potential. The charity aims to provide top-up support above and beyond NHS capacity. We do this by providing specialist equipment, staffing, facilities and holistic services that would otherwise not be possible.
We endeavour to keep the North East at the forefront of world-class cardiac care. We provide support to six other hospitals providing cardiac care across the north. Our work with the NENC CHD Network and specialist world-first positions continues to positively impact the wider community of Heart Heroes across the country.
What services or resources does the Children’s Heart Unit Fund offer to help children and their families in need of specialist care?
Chuf has funded everything from the building of Scott House, a parent accommodation unit on the grounds of the Freeman, to the majority of echo machines in hospitals across the region. We’ve created a world-class play and sensory room. As well as outdoor play space, so that children can still play, learn and develop their skills whilst in hospital.
Working with Tin Arts to provide the Clown Doctor Service for over 17 years, we’ve helped to equip young Heart Heroes with coping mechanisms to meet unanticipated difficulties that come with their lifelong conditions.
Chuf proudly brought pioneering machinery such as the Organ Care System to the region. But most importantly, we champion the small things. When you have a seriously ill child in hospital for long spells, you’re unlikely to be thinking about expensive pioneering machinery and specialist staffing.
Whilst we do fund these things, we hear back from families time and again how much difference the little things made to their day-to-day experience. Practical support with things like emergency washbags, accommodation, parking costs and food, removes unnecessary burdens at a time when families already have so much to worry about.
We are here for life. Which is why Chuf supports pioneering research and services that contribute to better life quality and better chances for present and future generations.
We help to make time in hospital more bearable with small gestures that have a big impact on mental wellbeing. Things such as facilitating family get-togethers and seasonal celebrations. This way ensuring they can stay connected with super-fast wi-fi or pass long stays with activities all help to keep them upbeat.
Where do most of your proceeds go?
Chuf works closely with the NHS Trusts, medical staff and families. All to ensure that funds are targeted to where they are most needed. We respond to requests from the wards and clinics for equipment. As well as for staff training or research that will improve the service.
Chuf funds a number of services that have become integral to life on the Heart Unit. This includes: The Clown Doctors Programme, Vcreate software, portable equipment (Sats/INR machines, baby scales and heart monitoring tapes), emergency wash bags, surgery bears, bereavement bags and memory charms, feeding families vouchers, emergency accommodation, seasonal treats, toys and craft materials for the playroom, as well as specialist staffing.
We are also commited to annual events for heart families that have left the unit. These are: the British Transplant Games, Chuf Toddle and Chuf Christmas party.
What are the main challenges that the Children’s Heart Unit Fund faces in its mission, and how can the public contribute beyond monetary donations?
As in every sector right now, we are seeing the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. It presents a challenge for Chuf to, not only maintain the existing services that we provide, but to support expansion.
Chuf is a reasonably small team. In the run up to and delivery of our larger events we often seek support from volunteers. This is another great way for local businesses and individuals to support the charity in a non-monetary form.
What are the future plans and goals of Chuf in terms of expanding its reach and impact on the community?
It’s no secret that the NHS is going through tough times in terms of funding and resources. That’s why Chuf’s support is so vital for children and families receiving treatment. Our top-up support, means that they have access to the services and equipment they need, when they need it.
At our recent 40 Anniversary Ruby Ball, Chuf launched a brand new capital appeal ‘The Seven’. This was in response to a large request from regional cardiothoracic teams for seven new pieces of state-of-the art equipment. This includes echo machines as well as portable equipment.
We were happy at the generosity of our corporate supporters. They, along with the Sir Graham Wylie Foundation, helped Chuf to raise a whopping £130,424 at the Ruby Ball. This the cost of the first piece of equipment secured – how amazing is that?
We plan to raise at least £250,000 in the first stage of the appeal. Then a further £400,000 in the next couple of years so we still have a long way to go. As such we’re eager to work with the local community for next year’s events. As well as to forge new trust and corporate partnerships to help us achieve our goal.