Readers with hearts of gold dig deep for our Baby Hearts appeal
Thousands of pounds have been raised in days by Belfast Telegraph readers donating to a campaign aimed at ending congenital heart disease in babies.
For its annual Christmas campaign, this newspaper is supporting Chest Heart and Stroke's Baby Hearts Appeal.
It will fund the Baby Hearts Study – groundbreaking research in Belfast.
Until Christmas Eve, we are asking 800 friends to donate, and make a massive difference to the lives of many families.
If 800 new supporters donate at least £25 each, that will pay for 110 babies from across Northern Ireland to take part in the study.
But no matter what the amount donated, it will help make a difference and will be welcomed.
Launched on Monday, Belfast Telegraph readers have already donated more than £2,500 – enough to fund 17 babies in the study. CHS director Siobhan Hanley said the charity was "absolutely delighted", and is confident it will reach its target to support at least 110 babies.
Congenital heart disease happens all over the world, affecting families from all walks of life – and can be life-threatening. In most cases, we don't know why babies are born with it.
Joe Degnan from Larne is one of hundreds of babies affected in Northern Ireland each year.
In August he underwent surgery aged just six days old.
His mother Kerri (32) said supporting crucial research was vital to helping babies like Joe.
"I'd do anything to help make sure that no other family has to go through what we've been through," she said.
Ms Hanley added: "Until we know what the causes are, there's no way we can prevent it. That's where the study comes in."
Researchers at the University of Ulster along with paediatric cardiologists at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children are gathering vital information from families across Northern Ireland.
Some families involved in the study will have babies diagnosed with congenital heart disease.
And other families will have babies born without the disease.
Dr Frank Casey, consultant paediatric and fetal cardiologist, Royal Hospital for Sick Children, who is involved in the study, said: "Within Northern Ireland it's actually easier to do this kind of important study than in other regions, because all of the babies with heart problems attend one big centre in Belfast.
"Here we can capture the information on all babies in Northern Ireland who have any significant heart problems. This is our starting point."
• Congenital heart disease is the most commonly occurring serious congenital abnormality affecting children.
• Congenital heart disease is one of the most common birth defects and affects between eight and 10 out of every 1,000 babies.
• In Northern Ireland, 200-plus babies a year are born with congenital heart disease.
ABOUT OUR APPEAL...AND WHAT YOU CAN DO
OUR AIM: to help fund Belfast-based research into congenital heart disease in babies by raising at least £20,000 through our campaign
OUR TARGET: to enlist 800 supporters who will donate £25 each, covering research costs for 110 babies in Northern Ireland
HOW TO HELP: you can make a donation via www.nichs.org.uk/baby or alternatively telephone 028 9180 2080
USE YOUR COUPON: just print out the coupon below , fill in your details below and send it to the address at the bottom to make a contribution to this vital three-year study