Today the Belfast Telegraph is launching its Christmas campaign to raise money for crucial research that could help save the lives of countless children throughout the world who are suffering from congenital heart disease.
The Help our Babies Hearts' Appeal will assist in funding the Baby Hearts Study, a three-year research project being carried out by the University of Ulster in association with consultant paediatric heart specialists from the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.
The study will aim to find out why some children are born with heart problems, and also the possible risk factors for developing congenital heart conditions. This study is particularly important locally because congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect in Northern Ireland, where an average of 250 children a year are born with one or more conditions associated with the illness.
The advantage of carrying out the study in Northern Ireland is that the babies will be treated in the one centre, namely the Clark Clinic in the Royal Children's Hospital.
Significantly, however, the advances in combating this illness as a result of the research carried out here will be likely to benefit children from all over the world.
We in the Belfast Telegraph believe that this is a most worthy cause, and our target is to recruit 800 new supporters to donate at least £25 each. This would pay for 110 children across Northern Ireland to take part in the research project. Such a sum would make an important contribution to the overall sum of £172,000 which is needed to fund the research, which is being supported by the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke charity.
A solution to dealing effectively with congenital heart disease still remains out of reach but this new research in Northern Ireland could hold the key, providing sufficient funds are raised to carry out this work.
Anyone reading our story in today's paper about baby Joe Degnan could not fail to be moved by the experience of this child and his family, and it underlines the need for a breakthrough in dealing with this illness.
As little Joe's mother Kerri says: "You don't want any other baby to go through it. This research is so important."
We commend this appeal to everyone, and this newspaper is putting its weight fully behind a project that could benefit so many children and their families everywhere.