Feel Good

HLN Meets… Alicia Clovis-Mothalib from CHUF

We discover why The Children’s Heart Unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital have teamed up with four local bakeries to share some love this Valentine’s.

Written by Becky Hardy
Published 01.02.2022

We’re used to associating February with affairs of the heart. Valentine’s Day brings with it a swathe of heart-shaped cards, candy and confetti, with films and social media awash with expectations of declaring your undying love for that one special someone.

But did you know that February is the UK’s designated Heart Month? These are the four weeks of the year when, more than ever before, charities and communities do their utmost to raise awareness of the regularity and variety of heart conditions that affect all ages, genders and body shapes.

Which is why we’ve decided to shine a spotlight on one very special heart health charity, based right here in the North East, who worked tirelessly year-in, year-out to support children and their families through treatment for heart conditions: The Children’s Heart Unit Fund [CHUF].

 

WHO ARE CHUF?

You’ve heard of the Avengers, right? Well, CHUF are all about inspiring hope among the next generation of heroes – Heart Heroes, that is – by supporting pioneering services that positively impact children and families affected by heart conditions.

CHUF support seven hospitals across the North and, primarily, families treated at the Freeman Hospital, which has an international reputation for its work in cardiology, the heart specialists it attracts and their success with paediatric transplants. Because of this reputation, young patients from all across the UK come to the North East to receive the best specialist care – and CHUF are with them all, and their families, every step of the way.

Whether its raising money for cutting-edge equipment or paying for specialist staff, funding research to get one step ahead of congenital heart conditions or organising clown doctors to spread a little laughter among the children on the ward, CHUF sees to it all – and helps every child on the unit to reach their full potential.

‘I feel very privileged to work at CHUF because only the Freeman Hospital do what they do,’ says Alicia Clovis-Mothalib, Corporate and Trusts Fundraising Manager at CHUF. ‘The NHS Trusts are amazing and we work very closely with them, but we offer support above and beyond what they’re able to provide.

‘CHUF takes care of families from the moment they need specialist care. The most complicated cases will come here, so kids can sometimes get helicoptered in from all across the country. We provide equipment, specialist staffing – including the UK’s only Fontan nurse – and we fund the clown doctors, who can bring empowerment and smiles to children and families who perhaps don’t feel as though there’s anything to smile about. We also pay for food, accommodation, parking and all those unexpected costs that come along when your child is very poorly.’

WHY IS HEART MONTH SO IMPORTANT?

While awareness months, weeks and days are always a great opportunity for charities to organise special fundraising events and activities, the clue about their main ambition is in the name – awareness.

‘People tend to think heart conditions are very rare because people might say: “I’ve got a rare heart condition”,’ Alicia explains. ‘But they’re actually very common, especially among children. Congenital heart disease is the biggest killer of under-1s – bar none – and is in the top 3 killers in under-13s.’

Having a designated period of the year to help share a greater understanding of congenital heart disease, then, can not only help fundraising efforts. It can also help us to better recognise symptoms, understand prognoses and the everyday issues that surround families dealing with a poorly child, and reach out to loved ones who may be facing this kind of illness themselves.

‘The reasons why CHUF wants to draw awareness to our work throughout February is because people don’t realise what an amazing service we have up here in the North East,’ Alicia continues. ‘We want to highlight some of the incredible services and support families can access up here.

‘We’re very lucky to have all these specialists up here, and we’re privileged to have the heart unit on our doorstep.’

HOW ARE CHUF PARTNERING WITH LOCAL BAKERIES FOR HEART MONTH?

CHUF’s ongoing campaign encourages us all to #WearYourHeartOnYourSleeve and has a variety of visible incentives to help get people talking about heart health.

But as part of this campaign for February in particular, CHUF have partnered up with four local bakeries – Cake Stories, Le Mini Macaron, Sweet & Fair and Dreamworld Cakes – who have all created a special, mouth-watering selection of sweet treats to help spread the word among their customers, as well as raising some much-needed funds for the charity.

‘Last year was the first time that we trialled something like this and a massive part of our decision to do so was also to support our local businesses during the lockdowns,’ explains Alicia.

‘Heart Month is obviously February, which coincides with Valentine’s Day, when many of us are wanting to treat our loved ones. By working with these incredible bakeries, we wanted to say: look, if you’re buying a sweet treat anyway this month, why not buy from these businesses? Then not only are you supporting the local economy, but you’re also helping to support CHUF.

‘What’s especially great is that some of these bakeries offer the option to have the sweet treats delivered. So, as well as the local community being able to pop into the ones with physical shops, anyone who lives further away can also get involved. We have supporters from all over the place because of the specialist care the Freeman Hospital and CHUF can provide, so being able to offer online orders was really important to us.’

HOW ELSE CAN WE SUPPORT HEART MONTH?

As well as tucking into some fresh, locally-made delicacies (supporting amazing charities is hard work, right?), we can show a little love for CHUF during Heart Month in plenty of other ways.

‘The key date to remember is Friday 18th February, which is Wear Red for CHUF Day,’ says Alicia. ‘We encourage everyone in schools and businesses – whether they’re in the office or just on a Zoom call – to wear red, with the option of donating £1. We’d love this day to become as recognisable as Save The Children’s Christmas Jumper Day or Macmillan Coffee Mornings. People can make a £1 donation by texting CHUF1 to 70480.

‘We’re also encouraging people to host a “Heart to Heart” – be that a coffee morning or a games evening – where they get together, have a natter about heart health among other things, and hopefully raise some funds.

‘We have loads of resources on our website that anyone can access. There’s everything on there from packs for if you’re a teacher wanting to talk about heart health in schools, to being able to download free colouring-in kits for kids and iced biscuit recipes if you were to host a coffee morning. We also have limited edition t-shirts, which people can buy online. And there’s dedicated resources for businesses who want to support us in any way. If anyone wants to discuss anything more specific, then they can also contact me directly.

‘But basically, buy cake (responsibly) and wear red! And whatever you do, please tag CHUF on social media and use the hashtags #wearredforchuf and #wearyourheartonyoursleeve – hopefully we can turn our social media channels red and really get people talking!’

MEET THE BAKERIES

Here are the local bakeries lending their spatulas to CHUF for Heart Month – and the culinary creations that are just perfect for Valentine’s Day…

 

 

Cake Stories 

Be it Valentine’s Day, Christmas morning or Bonfire Night, Cake Stories are all about spreading some love.

And for Heart Month, Cake Stories will be donating a portion of the profits from their ridiculously popular Whole Lotta Love Box to CHUF. With lip-smacking fudgy chocolate, salted caramel, zingy raspberry and rose and passionfruit flavours, you’ll get serious brownie points with this letterbox-friendly pack. Especially as they’re naturally all gluten-free.

‘We loved being involved in CHUF’s National Heart Month campaign last year, raising funds for such a worthy cause through sales of our Whole Lotta Love brownie boxes,’ says co-owner, Ben. ‘We were thrilled to be involved again this year and will be donating £1 for each of our special Valentine’s brownie boxes purchased in February.’

 

CHECK IT OUT

Le Mini Macaron

They say the course of true love never did run smooth, but there are few things smoother than the sweet meringue bases, creamy centres and indulgent toppings at Le Mini Macaron – and we’re pretty sure we’re in love with them all.

Showing that they also wear their heart on their sleeves, Le Mini Macaron – spearheaded by mother-daughter dream team, Gillian and Joanne – have created special pink Love Macaron egg boxes filled with heart-shaped macarons in three limited-edition flavours, all to support CHUF and running throughout Heart Month.

So, while the (gluten-free) fillings of these divine delicacies are Strawberries & Cream, Double Chocolate & Caramel or Passionfruit & Chocolate, love will well and truly be at the heart of your next sweet treat here.

 

CHECK IT OUT

Sweet & Fair

Local dessert devotees Sweet & Fair are all about creating cakes with a conscience. And, despite being on maternity leave, owner Abby is still determined to spread a little love this Heart Month. She’s created two special edition Valentine’s Treat Boxes with the option to add on extra scones (oh, go on then), 10% of all profits going directly to CHUF.

‘Throughout the year, Sweet & Fair supports charities related to food security and poverty,’ says Abby. ‘But when we heard about Heart Month, CHUF felt like the perfect charity partner for our Valentine’s treats. We’re delighted to be able to support them again this year and hope our small contribution will help put some smiles on children’s faces and the many hardworking people involved in their care.’

What’s in the boxes, we hear you ask? Think fondant-covered vanilla heart biscuits, red velvet cupcakes, heart-shaped Biscoff rocky road and sour cherry dark chocolate hearts, to name but a few. We’ll leave the other treats as a surprise…

 

CHECK IT OUT

Dreamworld Cakes

Award-winning husband and wife team, Bake Off: The Professionals finalists and owners of Ouseburn’s heavenly Dreamworld Cakes Patisserie, Bernadett and Richard have also stepped up support CHUF this Heart Month.

Already renowned for their beautiful celebration cakes and handcrafted continental creations, Dreamworld Cakes will be offering a limited-edition sweet treat to their array of desserts, donating the profits to the charity they also supported last year.

‘As parents ourselves, we knew right away that we wanted to work with the Children’s Heart Unit Fund,’ explains Bernadett. ‘Strangely enough, we soon discovered that one of our staff members was born with a heart condition and had benefitted from the charity’s support on the unit years before. The more you speak to people, the more you realise how common heart problems are. It was a no-brainer for us to be involved again this year.’

 

CHECK IT OUT

 

 

For more information about Heart Month and the work that CHUF do throughout the year, visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

 

And if you are planning any of your own Heart Month activities, please don’t forget to use the hashtags #wearredforchuf and #wearyourheartonyoursleeve

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