Lions step up appeal in bid to save lives

A previous charity swimarathon held at the YMCA Pool in St Annes
A previous charity swimarathon held at the YMCA Pool in St Annes

Caring fund-raisers are stepping up their bid to save lives.

After generating enough cash over the last two years to have defibrillators installed in Fylde’s schools and other key public buildings, Lytham St Annes Lions’ latest swimarathon will benefit the charity CRY – Cardiac Risk in the Young – with the aim of funding the medical screening of hundreds of local young people.

The Lions, who have raised more than £190,000 for a wide range of good causes in nearly three decades of the swimarathon, targeted action to prevent young deaths two years ago after a near-fatal incident involving Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba brought the benefits of defibrillators to the fore.

With the aim of preventing tragedies such as the sudden death of St Annes teenager Luke Rutter, who collapsed on a tennis court five years ago, the Lions raised £10,000 at the 2012 swimarathon.

The cash was used to provide the vital machines for secondary schools and then followed up last year with a record £11,500 to similarly kit out primary schools.

Now, the aim is to raise at least £7,000 to cover the kind of preventative measures in which CRY specialises – and the Lions still have plenty of places available for teams of swimmers to take part in the charity fund-raiser, which takes place at St Annes’ YMCA Pool on Sunday, January 25.

Lions spokesman Colin Holt said: “The aim to supply Fylde’s schools plus public buildings such as swimming baths with the defibrillators was a brilliant success and we were delighted with the response from the swimmers and sponsors.

“We wondered what would be the ideal beneficiary to follow that up and CRY was the answer.

“They do great work in screening young people for cardiac problems but the screenings need paying for and we hope we can raise enough to pay for the procedure to be carried out on some 200 young people aged from 14 to 18.”

Details, such as the youngsters who will be involved are yet to be confirmed but we hope it can be held over a weekend later in the year.”

The Lions’ efforts have come in for glowing praise from CRY chief executive Alison Cox, who founded the charity in 1995 after her son, Steve, was diagnosed with a heart condition while training at a tennis academy in the USA, aged just 18.

While the diagnosis signalled the end of Steve’s promising career, he was successfully treated and he has now gone on to become CRY’s director of screening and deputy chief executive.

Alison said: “This is a very special year for CRY as we mark our 20th anniversary.

“Since we launched in 1995, CRY has gone from strength to strength and thanks to the generosity and fundraising efforts of the public across the UK, we have been able to develop and grow a range of specialist services, from screening and research to our network of specialist bereavement support.

“Therefore, on behalf of all of us at CRY, I would like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the Lytham St Annes Lions for choosing us as a beneficiary and for recognising the importance of cardiac screening.

“We look forward to bringing our screening experts to the area in the near future.”

CRY’s screening programme now tests around 15,000 young people aged between 14 and 35 every year and Alison added: “Every week in the UK, around 12 young people under the age of 35 die suddenly from a previously undiagnosed heart condition, also known as young sudden cardiac death. Eighty per cent of these deaths will occur with no prior symptoms – which is why CRY believes that screening is so vitally important.

“Our programme is significantly subsidised, so that each appointment only costs £35. We usually test around 200 young people at every session we hold across the country, costing around £7,000 – a huge sum which has very often been funded by bereaved families who have been tragically affected by a young sudden cardiac death.

“However, increasingly, these events are also being sponsored by local community groups, such as the Lions, who are recognising the importance of cardiac screening and potentially safeguarding the lives of young people in their area.

“Thanks to this amazing – and often, quite humbling – support, there is no charge to an individual when CRY’s mobile cardiac screening service is bought to a local school, sports club or community venue.

“Privately, these tests could cost in excess of £200, just for the ECG and an expert consultation. And, if a young person is found to have an abnormality, CRY will also conduct the further follow up investigation on the same day, for no additional charges.

“We use a very a simple and non-invasive way of diagnosing most cardiac abnormalities. It is a quick, painless and affordable procedure called an electrocardiogram (ECG).

“Although screening will not identify all young people at risk, in Italy, where screening is mandatory for all young people engaged in organised sport, they have reduced the incidence of young sudden cardiac death by 90 per cent. This is because sport - while it does not actually cause sudden cardiac death - can significantly increase a young person’s risk if they have an underlying condition.”

Lytham St Annes Technology and Performing Arts College, where Luke Rutter was a student, has been mooted as a possible venue for the local screening session and head teacher Philip Wood said:

“Given the very tragic death of one of our students some years ago from an unforeseen heart problem, the school is deeply committed to making provision available that might save a life.

“In the year after Luke’s death, students raised £4,500 for CRY, so we shall be very happy to support the Lions in their fund raising efforts by entering teams again this year in the swimarathon.

“In recent years the school has contributed to fund raising for the swimarathon, sending as many as four teams of students to the event and hhas benefited through the provision by the Lions of a defibrillator, as well as installing two further units, part funded by North West Ambulance Service and the school.

“These are known as public access defibs and are located at points in the school where the community can access them they use our facilities.

“We are extremely fortunate to have this provision and to have staff who are able to train others in the use of the defibrillator units.”

Anyone wanting to find out more about taking part in the swimarathon or how to get involved in sponsorship should contact Joe Woods on (01772) 679766. More information on CRY from www.c-r-y.org.uk.