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HeartKids supporting families impacted by childhood heart disease

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down HeartKids’ face-to face hospital and community support for people impacted by congenital heart disease (CHD), actor Gyton Grantley came to their rescue.

Gyton was joined by his fellow castmates from the Australian production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which had also been shut down, to read chapters from the Harry Potter books every weeknight to HeartKids’ online community of families.

“We were lucky to get special permission from the publisher of the books, as the readings were to a private group of our HeartKids families,” said HeartKids CEO, Fiona Ellis.

“The actors absolutely loved it and the families loved it, too. It was such a special time as we were finding that the families were feeling very isolated due to the high-risk nature of their child’s disease.”

Gyton became an ambassador for HeartKids after his cousin Melissa lost her baby to congenital heart disease in 2016. Affectionately known as Heart Angels, four young lives are lost to this disease each week. In Australia, eight babies are born every day with congenital heart disease, and it is the leading cause of death among Australian children under one year of age.

Due to the great success of the Harry Potter readings in 2020, they have now become part of the ongoing support program. With many other actors keen to be involved including the local cast of acclaimed US musical Hamilton, it opened a new means of online support that attracted a wider proportion of the community.

“If you have a child with a chronic illness, it’s hard to face just leaving the house so this was much more accessible for those families. We found we had more people engaging with HeartKids and with other families – peer to peer support is fundamental to the way in which HeartKids supports our families.”

The initial funding from the William Buckland Foundation was focused on face-to-face support such as events, seminars, workshops, and social gatherings. HeartKids now plans to run more online and hybrid events as communities recover from a second wave of lockdowns in late-2021.

The team were delighted to hear about this creative approach to keeping families connected during the pandemic,” Equity Trustees Trust and Grant Program Manager, Ferdi Hepworth, said.

Read more stories like these in our 2022 Annual Giving Review or find out more about philanthropy here or HeartKids here

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