Have a Heart: Take part in Wear Red Day to raise £1 million for the Children's Heart Surgery Fund in Leeds
People are being encouraged to get involved in Wear Red Day to help the Children's Heart Surgery Fund in Leeds raise £1million in 2020.
As part of the YEP's Have a Heart campaign, residents across Leeds are being asked to wear something scarlet on Friday, February 7 in support of congenital heart disease.
Taking part is easy - simply wear something red to work or school and help raise vital funds Leeds Congenital Heart Unit, based in the Leeds General Infirmary.
Thousands of people across the region have taken part over the years to raise awareness and funds for the Children's Heart Surgery Fund (CHSF).
The annual event has raised more than £250,000 for the charity to date.
Wear Red Day was the brainchild of Carmen Greene, who set up the campaign when her five-year-old son Kieran was awaiting heart surgery.
Kieran, now 12, was diagnosed with an atrioventricular septal defect when he was five years old after going to the doctor’s for a routine appointment.
Carmen, 48, from Barwick-in-Elmet, said: “It was a real shock.
“We thought we’d know by five if he had a serious heart problem but when he went in for scans and wasn’t out after 45 minutes we had a feeling something was wrong.
“From then it was totally in the hands of the surgeons and hospital staff.
“We couldn’t do or say anything to help, which as a parent was very unusual.
“At the time, we didn’t know if the facility would even be at the LGI by the time his surgery came around.
“It is already a stressful time waiting for your surgery date and the possibility that the facility wouldn’t be there and you’d have to drive to Newcastle was definitely putting an extra strain on people at the time.
“It suddenly became a huge issue and it was so important that the unit stay near us in Yorkshire.
“My sister Emma said I could either spend the time worrying and wrapping Kieran up in cling film or I could be proactive and do something.
“That’s why we initially started the Wear Red Day - to give us control and do something positive to try and help keep the unit here in Leeds because the service is amazing and the staff are wonderful."
Carmen, who also mum to Aiden, 16, and her sister Emma Emmerson, 41, thought up the concept and spent weeks phoning and visiting schools and businesses to get them involved.
The mum-of-two also managed to convince the 2013 Leeds United squad to back the campaign - even convincing them to wear red.
Carmen said: "I don’t know what I was thinking when I asked a bunch of Leeds players to wear all red - the room went silent! They laughed and said “just be quick” and we took some photos that ended up in the YEP.
"That was fantastic as it was really early on in Wear Red Day. The publicity really made other people keen to get involved.
She added: “We definitely underestimated how much work it would be but it was seriously fun.
"We got all the family involved wearing costumes and doing things like bake sales in Morrisons - we even had our 60-year-old mum dressed up as the mascot Katie bear.
"It was fantastic. Everyone was just so open to it and schools were particularly receptive. Seeing everyone in red was fantastic."
Carmen, who owns Barwick Barbers, and her sister Emma, who works in a school, raised more than £20,000 for the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit.
They have now handed Wear Red Day over to CHSF to manage, however they still take part every year.
Carmen said: "We are still pushing and still making the effort to rally people around
"I own a little barber shop in the village and we will be going all out to take part in it.
"The charity have been amazing in taking over Wear Red Day and it has really gone from strength to strength.
"It’s quite funny when we see everyone dressed head to toe in red and think “oh my god we started that!”
"It’s nice to see it going on without us."
Sharon Milner, CEO, of CHSF said that Wear Red Day was a "game-changer".
Sharon said: "Carmen and her sister's contribution was huge and they raised around £20,000.
"Smallish donations had been coming in but Wear Red Day was a game-changer. The response was phenomenal.
"Wear Red Day is now in its 7th year and because of the people of Leeds, this event has raised more than £250,000 towards life-saving medical equipment, ward facilities and vital research.”
She added: "In the name of past, present and future heart patients, we encourage local schools, businesses and individuals to turn red and support the exceptional specialist care offered by the Leeds Congenital Heart Unit.”
“We are hugely thankful for the people of Leeds and their help in making Leeds a shining beacon in global congenital cardiac care.”
As well as wearing red to show their support for Wear Red Day, iconic businesses across across Leeds will be lighting up the building red.
The Corn Exchange, Leeds Civic Hall and Trinity Leeds are just a few of the businesses that will be taking part in order to raise funds for CHSF.
Danielle Harris, Marketing Manager at Trinity Leeds, said: “We’re proud to once again support the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund by lighting the Trinity Leeds roof red.
"It’s fantastic to see the city’s iconic buildings and businesses help shine a light on such a worthy cause and the incredible work the charity does providing vital, life-saving equipment and facilities to thousands of young children every year.”
Laura Collins, editor of the YEP, said: "The Congenital Heart Unit has made such a difference to the lives of so many families, not only here in Leeds but across the north of England.
"But it is only by staying at the forefront of cutting edge technology that the team can continue to be such a lifeline to those in need.
"Tireless fundraisers help to ensure that the dedicated team at the unit can continue to push the boundaries of treatment and support those families whose children are fighting for survival.
"We can all play a part by showing the love the city has for the unit by a simple gesture of donning something red this Friday and turning Leeds red."
How can you get involved with Wear Red Day:
To get your local school, place of work or community group involved please sign up to CHSF’s annual Wear Red Day on Friday, February 7.
You can do this on the Children's Heart Surgery Fund website where you can also download a free fundraising pack.
If you are unable to take part in Wear Red Day but still would like to support please visit the website to make an online donation at www.chsf.org.uk/donateAlternatively, cheques can also be made payable to Children’s Heart Surgery Fund at 3 Oxford Place, Leeds, LS1 3AX. Thank you!