Taranaki families impacted by childhood heart defects are receiving more support and connection, since HeartKids Taranaki increased its presence in the region.

“Each week, 12 babies are born with a congenital heart defect. New parents may face the prospect of travelling to Starship for surgery and caring for a chronically ill child,” said Karen Whelan, Family Support Worker. HeartKids is the only organisation in New Zealand dedicated to providing lifelong care and support for these young people and their families.

For over 30 years, HeartKids has provided information and resources, directpractical and emotional support, prenatal support, help to build networks,connection to services, access to CPR training and some equipment items, and run camps for heart kids.

Karen said the organisation was increasing its services to Taranaki families. “HeartKids has not had a strong presence in Taranaki in the past. Once the Covid-19 lockdown happened in 2020, the committee was unable to get started. Families had the extra pressure of caring for their loved one, who now had another layer of health-related vulnerability.”

“We don’t receive government funding. We rely on donations and fundraising, including national and regional activities. Covid restrictions over the past year have limited these activities, reducing awareness and opportunities to seek donations.”

A grant of $5k from Toi Foundation (formerly TSB Community Trust) meant support services could continue for the families of heart children in the region, while restrictions were changing. A local Family Support Worker was able to provide ongoing support, including phone calls, skype and face-to face individual visits once Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Networking opportunities like the Murmurs coffee groups meant families could stay connected.

“The grant was crucial for the availability of supports and services to our 200 families in Taranaki. We are grateful that the Toi Foundation grant has helped keep the services for Taranaki ticking over."

"As well as keeping continuity for families, it has taken the pressure off already busy families to do massive fundraising events," Karen said.