Local fundraisers have helped leading health charity Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke (NICHS) celebrate its 70th anniversary.
Vicki Moore and Molly Leith from the charity’s Newtownabbey Support Group were among 300 people who attended a special celebration event at the Europa Hotel in Belfast recently. Also present were Marie Kean from Newtownabbey, who is celebrating her 70th birthday this year, and David and Joan Magill and other members of the NICHS Glengormley Fundraising Support Group.
Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke began life as the local branch of the National Association for the Prevention of TB in June 1946. It was started by 16 volunteers who were concerned that local deaths from tuberculosis were the highest in the UK. It became the NI Chest and Heart Association in 1959 and the NI Chest, Heart and Stroke Association in 1976.
Today, the charity has 65 staff and 450 volunteers and tackles the illnesses that claim nearly half of all lives in Northern Ireland. Its achievements over the past seven decades include contributing to a 60 per cent decrease in coronary heart deaths, helping establish dedicated stroke units in hospitals and developing innovative health and education programmes.
“We have been at the forefront of the battle against the biggest health risks Northern Ireland has faced in the last 70 years,” said the charity’s chief executive, Declan Cunnane. “But the battle is far from over. The fact that many more people are surviving heart attack and stroke, and living with respiratory conditions, means that our support services for families are in more demand than ever before.
“We pride ourselves in being the only local charity tackling heart disease, stroke and lung disease. In seven decades, every penny we have raised has been spent in Northern Ireland for the benefit of local people.”
He added: “If our 16 founding volunteers could see what we’ve achieved in seven decades, they would be very proud. They changed Northern Ireland for the better – a job we intend to continue in the next 70 years.”