By Lindsey Turnbull
A solid crowd of supporters joined the Governor Helen Kilpatrick and members of the Cayman Heart Fund on Tuesday, May 16 at Government House to help celebrate 10 years since the organisation first began its work to help promote heart health in the Cayman Islands.
The CHF’s first president Suzy Soto, who is now its president emeritus, spoke of her gratitude in having the governor as the Fund’s patron and thanked a long line of past and present members and supporters for all that they had done over the past 10 years to help the Fund.
Having had a pacemaker fitted in 2001, Soto’s own experience with a heart condition was the catalyst for the development of CHF. As a result, she founded the Fund in May 2007 and Dr. Sook Yin and Dr. Shirley Cridland came on board as directors soon after.
The team was then joined by Kevin Doyle, vice president, himself a heart condition survivor, Teresa Foster, treasurer, and Teri Quappe, secretary . They set about raising funds for the projects they had planned, to reduce the threat of cardio vascular disease and circulatory conditions among the local population. Butterfield were one of the CHF’s first donors, along with law firm Ogier which helped the Fund establish itself as a charity, and a slew of private donors, Soto said.
Soto confirmed that she still has copies of the original cheques that helped kick-start the CHF and those donors were honoured at the anniversary event with a special certificate for their early efforts to fund the CHF.
David Dinner, current CHF president, said he had joined the Fund following his collaboration with them through his work with the War on Weight project in 2009, with Soto persuading Dinner to make the next step to become a fully-fledged board member.
Dinner confirmed that the CHF is currently enjoying its best year ever with regard to fundraising, having raised $300,000 through various events and initiatives, including its annual Cayman Heart Fund Gala dinner, where everyone is encouraged to wear red for the cause.
This year’s event held in February was at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa with a rock’n’roll theme and included a live auction. As a result, the CHF was able to help raise then$150,000 funds required to purchase a new ambulance for the George Town Hospital, aided by a $60,000 donation of funds raised from the Deputy Governor’s 5K fun run last year.
This year they were able to again host their ever popular heart symposium, attracting around 130 heart health professionals to hear presentations from five international experts in the field, benefiting local healthcare professionals as well as visiting delegates from overseas with an update on the very latest in cutting edge techniques to help people with heart conditions.
This year the Fund was also able to host their inaugural Heart Heroes Luncheon, which welcomed more than 250 people to see the Fund honour five adults and two children in the community who had overcome heart conditions.
An upcoming project is to unveil a Heart Heroes Wall at the George Town hospital, in a similar vein to the existing cancer heroes’ wall, which will honour the many men, women and children who have had to battle heart conditions in the Cayman Islands.
Catching the early signs of cardiovascular and circulatory disease has long been known to greatly reduce a patient’s likelihood of going on to suffer a heart attack, so the CHF have put huge efforts into educating the public about people’s own health risks.
Their annual heart health fair has been a fountain of information about the causes, symptoms and treatment of heart disease through free presentations for the public by health practitioners. In addition, the public has been able to get health screenings of important health numbers free of charge, including cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure and body mass index readings.
These readings, which often may come as a surprise to people who show no outward symptoms of developing cardio vascular disease, then help people discover whether they are at risk from heart disease, which is the number one killer of Cayman residents. This year the CHF were able to screen 500 residents.
Another important initiative which the CHF has pushed from the start of its creation has been its AED (automatic external defibrillator) programme, aimed at ensuring that businesses and areas where people gather are equipped with these life-saving pieces of equipment that can help the heart regain its proper rhythm, should an individual need it.
The CHF’s AED programme began in 2008, whereby companies and individuals could purchase an AED from the Fund and receive vital training on how to use them through a partnership with professionals at St. Matthew’s University, who are on board to train groups on CPR and AED. The CHF also made it its mission to equip every school with an AED free-of-charge and last year they donated 20 AEDs to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
The Cayman Heart fund also works with other organisations in the Cayman Islands which have a similar aim of creating awareness and prevention of heart conditions and circulatory diseases, such as the Stroke Warriors of Cayman and Hart for Hearts projects. They also support the Get Active youth programme.