Whitley Bay dad reaches target for play facility at children's heart unit

Determined father Ivan Hollingsworth has raised £333,000 to build a new play room and outdoor play area for poorly children in the North East

Claire McKie Ivan Hollingsworth and Lisa Armour at the CHUF Charity Evening at Newcastle Racecourse
Ivan Hollingsworth and Lisa Armour at the CHUF Charity Evening at Newcastle Racecourse

Inspired father Ivan Hollingsworth has reached his ambitious target to fund play provision at a leading North East hospital.

Ivan has worked tirelessly to raise vital funds for the children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital. In 2009 the hospital saved the life of his son Sebastian, who celebrates his fifth birthday tomorrow, and Ivan and his wife Nadine have vowed to raise cash for the unit ever since.

The couple decided to set up a fund – Seb4Chuf – and have now hit their fundraising target of £333,000 to pay for a modern play facility for the young patients, some of whom spend months in the unit.

It is expected that the ground-breaking for the facility will be this month and the state-of-the-art premises will be completed later this year.

Ivan, 38, from Monkseaton, Whitley Bay, said: “I feel incredibly proud of what we, and everyone who has helped and donated money, have achieved.

“I want to say the biggest ‘thank you’ in the world.

“We have a personal reason of raising money because of Seb, but a lot of people have no link to the unit and they have given up so much time and donated money.

“The play room and outside play area is so important. I can’t save children’s lives as it’s the surgeons and the nurses who do that. But what this facility will do is let children be children.

“At some point in the future Seb will undergo further treatment, and he is unlikely to understand what this will involve or why he is so poorly; all he will want to do is play with his friends.

Ivan Hollingsworth and team finish their Coast to Coast run for charity
Ivan Hollingsworth and team finish their Coast to Coast run for charity

“The play area will hopefully help bring a smile to children’s faces at such a difficult time in their lives.”

Former professional athlete Ivan, a pharmaceutical rep, has undergone many difficult challenges to help raise vital funds, and last year he was made a trustee of the Children’s Heart Unit Fund.

The father-of-one has skied down a mountain in a mankini, run 100 miles in less than 24 hours and charged through countless marathons and half marathons for the unit.

In July last year, Ivan led a group of daredevils in an epic Coast to Coast challenge to raise money for the heart unit.

For the fourth consecutive year, he pushed himself to the limit as he and the team braved the exhausting adventure, dubbed C2C4. Over four days, the team cycled 140 miles, ran 61 miles and swam one mile as they travelled from Whitehaven in Cumbria to Tynemouth.

Ivan and Nadine may have hit their fundraising target but Ivan said: “We’re not stopping - we’re just getting started.”

On Monday, he will team up with best friend and TV personality Ben Shephard, along with former Newcastle Falcons rugby star Tom May, to train continuously until they have each burned 10,000 calories.

The trio will be raising money for the Freeman children’s heart unit and they will undertake the gruelling challenge at Speedflex Jesmond.

Ben, an ambassador of Speedflex, said: “We reckon it’ll take between 12 to 14 hours.

“Each session takes about 45 minutes to complete, but of course as the day wears on we will burn less and less calories as we get more tired and we have less to burn.”

Ivan added: “Any pain we will endure is insignificant compared to what heart children deal with every single day.”

For more information about seb4chuf or to give a donation visit www.seb4chuf.org.uk


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