Ant and Dec well Chuffed to help

North East stars Ant and Dec were yesterday announced as patrons for the Children's Heart Unit at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle

Ant and Dec in the Freeman Hospital's Childrens Heart Unit
Ant and Dec in the Freeman Hospital's Childrens Heart Unit

North East stars Ant and Dec have been announced as patrons for the region’s children’s heart unit. The Geordie duo said they were thrilled to give their  backing to the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF).

They were announced as patrons of the charity yesterday and were given a guided tour around the world-renowned facility.

Dec said: “We’re really excited about it. We were honoured when we were asked to become patrons.

“We have been to the unit a couple of times and have seen the work that they do and we were only to happy to be part of it.

“We have met some of the kids who are amazing and courageous, but the staff manage to keep everybody’s spirits up and keep a smile on everybody’s face.

“It is a really inspirational place and a wander around here really puts your problems in perspective and you realise that there are other people out there with bigger worries than you.”

The pair follow their sporting hero Alan Shearer, who is also patron of the Newcastle Freeman Hospital’s charity.

Ant added: “We are not patrons for many charities and the ones that we are most of them are in the North East.

“It means a lot to us coming back home and helping as much as we can.

“There was no hesitation in us becoming patrons and we just jumped at the chance.”

With them lending their support it is hoped that the profile of CHUF will be enhanced to help raise vital funds for the building of a new multi-million pound accommodation block for the families of children treated on the ward

On Monday a charity golf match and auction was held at Close House Hotel in Heddon- on-the-Wall, Northumberland, in which Ant and Dec took part, and £200,455 has been raised for CHUF.

Dr Richard Kirk, consultant paediatric cardiologist at the Freeman said: “It is absolutely fantastic that Ant and Dec have become our patrons and join Alan Shearer.

“It is really wonderful news and with these patrons we are really going to start flying.

“It is always necessary for us to get support of the big stars but also of everyone else too, and we need that to carry on doing the good work that we are doing.”

Parents Michael and Diane McIntyre have spent the last 11 weeks at the Freeman Hospital as their son Dante-Alexander was born with the rare defect hypoplastic left heart syndrome – a complex condition that affects only one in every 5,000 babies.

Mum-of-five Diane, 33, of Workington, Cumbria, said: “It was great for Dante-Alexander to get his picture taken with Ant and Dec as it’s something that we can show him when he’s older.

“It is amazing how much money is being raised for the charity and it really shows human kindness.”

Ant and Dec open new library building

TV favourites Ant and Dec put smiles on the faces of young children as they opened a new library building.

The stars sang nursery rhymes and bounced babies on their knees at the Whitley Bay Customer First Centre, in York Road, Whitley Bay.

The award-winning presenters then went on to meet a reading group who had been reviewing their autobiography, Ooh! What a Lovely Pair, before unveiling a plaque at the £5.2m centre.

Dec said: “We would like to say thank you for inviting us here. We both personally know how long it has taken for the planning and construction of this place. The building looks fantastic. You could not have made it any better.

“And we really enjoyed it here today.”

Four-month-old Ryan Bonham was among the youngsters who met the celebrities. Dec picked him up and bounced him on his knees.

Ryan’s mum Jennifer, 27, of Cullercoats, said: “Ant and Dec are my heroes. It was fantastic to see Dec with my son. Ryan was very happy and smiling when Dec was holding him. It was a thrill.”

Youngsters Joseph Beckham and Andrew Hepplewhite, pupils at Valley Gardens Middle School, also got a chance to meet the stars. The students were part of a focus group who helped to choose books for the library and make improvements to the children’s sections.

Joseph, 13, said: “Ant and Dec asked us about our focus group and the work we had done. It was really good to see them. We enjoyed the event.”

And Andrew, also 13, added: “They were both just like they are on TV. It was good to have them open the building, which looks really great.”

North Tyneside Mayor Norma Redfearn said: “This is a great day for Whitley Bay and North Tyneside. Who would have thought we would have Ant and Dec here. It’s fantastic that they have come to open this building.”

Before they left, the guests were given a special gift – coffee mugs with the words Proud To Be A Geordie written on them.

The centre, which includes a library, council services, a tourist information section, community rooms and health services, opened its doors to the public in April and has had more than 105,000 visitors using the facilities in the first two months.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer