£25,000 CHUF fund-raising success is all white in the afternoon for Sunderland couple

Sergio and Emma Petrucci
Sergio and Emma Petrucci

A Sunderland couple have raised £25,000 for the hospital unit which saved their daughter's life.

Luna Petrucci was just days short of her second birthday in 2015 when she underwent life-saving treatment on two holes in her heart at the Children’s Heart Unit (CHUF), at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

Luna Petrucci and brother Enzo with parents Emma and Sergio, back centre, and CHUF staff.

Luna Petrucci and brother Enzo with parents Emma and Sergio, back centre, and CHUF staff.

Parents Sergio and Emma have organised a series of events to raise funds for the unit in gratitude.

The Ashbrooke husband and wife founded the annual Red Sky Ball and have now added the White Party Brunch, a Dubai-inspired afternoon held at Ramside Hall Hotel on Sunday.

The event attracted support from a number of commercial partners from region and beyond, including main sponsor Emirates. More than 360 guests attended the event.

The latest success means Emma and Sergio have raised almost £140,000 in just over 18 months.

Luna during her time in hospital

Luna during her time in hospital

Sergio, who also has a son, Enzo, said: "Sunday was an unbelievable day. I'd say the best party we've ever been too. It was absolutely incredible to see everyone dressed in white to support us, and offer their generous donations.

"The praise we received for the quality of the event was equally incredible. At the end of the day, this is just me and my wife, trying to do something to give back to a team that has done something so amazing for our family.

"It’s been an unbelievable journey since we started fundraising.

"This all started with me offering to give some money personally to the team at the Freeman Hospital after wanting to do something to thank them for all they have done. And it’s grown from there.

"It’s been amazing and it’s so nice to know you’re making such a big difference to other children."

The overall money raised from the Red Sky Ball campaign will be enough to buy an Organ Care System which will allow donated organs - particularly for heart transplants - to remain viable for up to 24 hours. Current machines can only keep a heart healthy for only two to four hours.

CHUF is one of only two units in the UK supporting babies and children who require heart transplants. More than 300 children each year are cared for at the heart unit, of whom 20 will receive heart transplants and more than 7,000 will return for outpatient visits.

Ten per cent of the youngsters being treated are from Wearside .

"Ultimately, supporting CHUF to buy this machine means that many more donated hearts will be viable and many more babies’ and children's lives can be saved with the help of all of those who make our Red Sky efforts a success," added Sergio.

Chris Gray, CEO at CHUF, said: "We continue to be astounded by the incredible passion shown by the Petrucci family in their quest to raise funds to support many more families whose children require cardiac care. We couldn’t be more thrilled to receive this level of support.”

The event which sold out within days, took place just after National Transplant Week. Guests were dressed in white at the event, and were treated to a Dubai-themed afternoon of free-flowing Prosecco and a delicious selection of food. There was also a special DJ set by legendary 90's club DJ, Brandon Block.

Additional support was secured from sponsors including Specsavers, Barclays, Mercedes Benz of Sunderland, Poetic Licence, Everyone Active and Ramside Hall Hotel ensuring all money raised could be donated to CHUF to fund the heart transplant machine.

John Adamson, owner of Ramside Hall Hotel, said: "Having heard Sergio's story of how his beautiful daughter, Luna, had a life-saving heart operation, I've been touched by how he and wife Emma have dedicated their own time and effort to raise funds to help other children at the Freeman Hospital with similar conditions as Luna.

"It was an honour to be asked and to be able to help raise money for such a worthy cause."