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A devotion that’s close to heart

Tom Ross began volunteering for the Heart Foundation over ten years ago after suffering an unexpected heart attack.

“I thought I just had a bit of a headache but it kept getting worse and eventually I was convinced to go to the emergency department as my doctor thought I’d had a heart attack,” he recalls.

“Everyone was making quite a fuss and I had some tests run but as I was waiting I left the hospital to have a walk outside.

“They quickly called me back in and told me that they needed to give me an x-ray,” he says. “I was shocked, but in the end I stayed there for four days.”

Tom had a small stent inserted into a narrowed artery to act as an internal support framework to keep the artery open.

“While I was in hospital I was introduced to the Heart Health Advocate from the Heart Foundation,” says Tom. Heart Health Advocates are local representatives of the Heart Foundation in communities aiming to prevent heart disease and aid those in recovery. “Our connection grew from there really.”

Tom has been an area coordinator at seven Big Heart Appeals in the past and will take up his role once more on Friday 23 February and Saturday 24 February 2024 in a supermarket in Otago to help raise funds for life-saving heart research.

“I love coordinating the street collection as you get to interact with people from all walks of life,” he says. “I’m also running a fitness club at Unipol to help people who have had heart events improve their overall health, called Larks.

“We do aerobics, weight training and stretching,” he says. “It’s not too strenuous but it’s a great way to meet people who have a story to share about their heart issues.”

Tom believes that funding is vital for the Heart Foundation because of the great work that they do in the community for people after they’ve had a heart event, and not enough people realise that the street collection is vital to help support what they do.

“We need to bring back a bit of excitement to encourage people to take part,” he says. “Volunteering for such a good cause can be fun and rewarding at the same time but it’s getting harder and harder to find the people who have the time to give.

“Personally, I love the buzz of it all and getting out into the community,” he says. “We need more face-to-face interaction after so much screen time over the past few years. You never know what might happen just by talking to someone.”

Heart disease is New Zealand’s single biggest killer, claiming the lives of more than one person every 90 minutes. Heart disease can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. But by coming together and volunteering in the community, we can raise vital funds for life-saving heart research. 

If you’d like to volunteer as a street collector for the Big Heart Appeal street collection on Friday 23 or Saturday 24 February, please sign up by clicking on the button below.

Sign up now