Sunderland heart charity couple ‘thrilled’ to receive national award from Prime Minister

A Sunderland couple whose charity has worked to improve the provision of public-access defibrillators have been recognised with a national award.

The pair were awarded the Prime Minister’s Point of Light prize on the back of their health-related charity work, which has included a recent drive to install a number of defibrillators in public places.

Sergio and Emma Petrucci launched their own organisation in March 2020, having spent four years raising funds to support children with heart conditions in the North East.

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The Red Sky Foundation helps to support cardiac-related causes in the region – including work that helps babies, children and adults living with heart conditions.

Sergio and Emma Petrucci, who launched the Red Sky Foundation after their daughter Luna (below, right) underwent life-saving heart surgery

Sergio and Emma devote much of their spare time to running the charity and raising funds for the organisation through hosting events like the upcoming Red Sky Ball, which is set to see a thousand guests attend when it is finally held in 2022.

Donations from such events are channeled into funding life-saving equipment and machinery for North-East healthcare centres, as well as into the provision of support services for people of all ages across the region.

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Reacting to the news of the Point of Light award win, Mr Petrucci said he and his partner were ”thrilled and honoured” to have been selected for the prize.

"It came as a complete surprise when we got an email two days prior to the announcement telling us we had been awarded the Point of Light, asking if I’d accept it, and that was was the first I knew of it.

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“So many people have supported our Red Sky journey and we simply couldn’t make the difference we’ve made to help save so many lives without their encouragement.”

Mr and Mrs Petrucci had privately supported a number of charities for a number of years. But, they said, it was a life-saving heart operation for their daughter Luna, now aged eight, that inspired the couple to set up their own project which deals specifically with cardiac-related health causes.

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Luna underwent open heart surgery just days before her second birthday, after surgeons identified two complex conditions.

Sergio and Emma began fundraising for the Children’s Heart Unit in Newcastle to show their gratitude for the centre’s work.

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“When we experienced the amazing work of the doctors and staff on Ward 23 and in the paediatric intensive care unit that became the start of our charity work,” Mr Petrucci said.

"And our first Red Sky Ball was held a year later raising over £64,000 and that’s what kickstarted us to do so much more, by setting up the foundation.

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“The Children’s Heart Unit is and will always be a huge part of our lives – but through our foundation it’s nice to be able to do things for other projects and other children and adults living with heart disease across the region.”

Over the past five years, the couple have helped fund two echo cardiogram machines for Sunderland Royal Hospital and James Cook Hospital, besides a specialist organ transplant machine that helps grant surgeons more time to perform transplants.

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Mr Petrucci added: “It’s been extremely challenging over the last 12 months during the pandemic but we’ve still been able to make a huge difference to many.

"Most notably providing 23 defibrillators to covid wards to give people battling the disease the best chance of survival should they suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest in hospital.

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"For the year ahead we are planning on working closer with the NHS, first responders and communities to deliver CPR, defibrillator usage and healthy heart awareness programmes so people understand the chain of survival in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest and the importance of knowing resuscitation.”

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