A GROUP of fundraisers who have raised £500,000 for people living with heart conditions are hoping to take one step further with a sponsored walk.

The St Ives and district committee for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is calling on as many people as possible to lace up their trainers for a six or eight mile walk or run tomorrow. (April 17)

The committee has raised thousands for heart sufferers and their families through sponsored events since it was formed in 1983 by then St Ives mayor Jean Chandler.

Much of that money has been spent locally, with some going to fund research at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and to local GP surgeries in need of equipment.

The group also helped buy portable self-diagnostic ECG machines and defibrillators for the leisure centres in Huntingdonshire, including One Leisure in St Ives, Ramsey, St Neots and Huntingdon. The initiative proved to be an instant life-saver.

Mrs Chandler, who is currently committee chairman, said: “At the centre in Ramsey, a lady did have a heart attack, and because they had the defibrillator they were able to keep her alive, so they had saved a life within a fortnight. It is so worthwhile.

“We have been able to fund things locally, so the money does not go to national research.”

In the past the group has raised money through an annual sponsored swimming gala. That was replaced in 2000 with a 25-mile charity bike ride, but health and safety fears meant the event had to be shelved.

Inspired by a charity walk she held as mayor in 2000, Mrs Chandler has organised this latest walk to be open to all. The gentle six or eight mile route, starting at Copley Scout Centre in The Thicket, Westwood Road will take participants through the Ouse Valley Way.

Hopes are the event will help the group reach their annual fundraising target of £15,000. Last year the economic downturn meant donations were down.

All money raised this year will go to the BHF’s Mend Broken Hearts appeal, marking the charity’s 50th anniversary.

Mrs Chandler said: “Last year we raised nearly £12,000. The year before it was £15,000. It is more and more difficult to raise money because there are more and more good charities that desperately need money, but we hope to raise £15,000 again this year.

“We are lucky in that, if a hospital or surgery needs a piece of equipment related to the heart, we can help them buy it. If people think it is going to benefit them or their family and friends they are more inclined to help.”

INFORMATION: The walk starts at 10.15am for runners and 10.30am for walkers. To sign up and collect a sponsorship form call Mrs Chandler on 01480 469557 or go to St Ives BHF charity shop or St Ives One Leisure. Entries will also be taken on the day.