Thursday 14th July 2022 was like any other busy day in the Children’s Heart Unit Fund (CHUF) offices, little did the team know that the charity was about to be propelled onto the global stage, thanks to a tweet from Hollywood superstar Ryan Reynolds.
Ivan Hollingsworth, chair of the board of CHUF and dad to Seb, aged 13, was sitting by his son’s bedside just four days after Seb had undergone open heart surgery at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. At a loss for a way to help while Seb recovered, Ivan typed out a tweet; “So here’s a challenge Twitter-Sphere…How do we get a @MarvelStudios Superhero to send a message to our Heart Hero Seb. Recovering from open heart surgery and just so damn brave! Long shot I acknowledge, but I think he deserves it! Who’s up for the challenge? #HeartHeroSeb.”
The next day he received this reply.
Ryan Reynolds, star of Deadpool, was blown away by Seb’s bravery and tweeted asking Ivan to open his DMs, before sending a heartfelt personal video to Seb and a private message telling him “That scar is street cred for life!”. The support came at a pivotal time in Seb’s journey, as it came shortly after Seb’s bandage was removed and he found himself struggling with his surgery scar.
This exciting activity was followed by even more well wishes from Marvel superstars Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo. At time of writing Ivan’s original tweet has been liked almost 14k times with the story being covered in over 260 media outlets across the UK and the US, and since then, the family has been exchanging messages with Ryan Reynolds after he asked to be kept up to date with Sebs progress.
But what does all of this publicity really mean?
Charlotte Campbell, director of fundraising at CHUF said, “The exposure for CHUF has obviously been fantastic, but the really exciting thing is what this means for Heart Heroes across the UK; especially older children and teenagers.
“Going through adolescence is hard enough but when you pair that with potentially having a scar or undergoing treatment, that is really difficult. Unfortunately, there can sometimes be cruel comments from other kids, or body insecurities and the impact of someone like Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool himself, saying that a scar like yours gives you street cred for life is an incredible boost. Something which took these celebrities under 10 minutes has made our Heart Heroes walk a little taller, be a little braver and realise that they are part of a pretty elite gang that always has their back.
“Having your parents, nurses or friends tell you that your scar is cool is nice, but expected, whereas seeing a huge celebrity tell someone that looks like you that their scar is awesome has an enormous impact. We have seen tweets from people all over the world showing their scars and sharing their stories, it really has brought this incredible community together and showed our Heart Heroes that there are other amazing people out there who will always have their back.
“At CHUF we support children with heart conditions from birth, right through their lives. Medical advances mean that the population of people living and thriving with CHD has dramatically increased with 69% of babies born with critical CHD expected to survive to 18. This means that while our Heart Heroes will always start their journey with CHUF as an infant, the length of time that they may have a relationship with us has dramatically increased into teenage years and adulthood.
“There is so much visibility around support that is available for babies and young children and then a real gap in support as our Heart Heroes reach adolescence, before they would move to an adult ward. We are working with NHS Trusts and families to address these needs and fund appropriate equipment, spaces or programmes that will make that transition period as easy as possible for these young people. Growing up and finding your place in the world is hard enough as a young person and that can be compacted by a perceived drop-in support, when objectively you need it the most.”
CHUF raises vital funds for large and small pieces of equipment, facilities, aftercare, salaries and research. CHUF’s charitable activities however, go far beyond that of providing medical equipment and personnel. The charity provides holistic care to children and young people by providing services and facilities that allow Heart Heroes to develop their skills and mature as any healthy child normally would.
Charlotte concluded, “The work that we do to stretches beyond equipment and staff – our mission is to support our Heart Heroes to achieve their full potential and give them the tools they need to take on the world. We’ve always known that having a heart scar makes you a superhero but I guess now its official! We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone that got behind the campaign – you really have changed the world.”
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CHUF is a registered charity in England and Wales No 1160831 © 2023.