Scotland, United Kingdom: Killie Heartmates, a Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland-affiliated peer support group, will celebrate a landmark anniversary with a dinner in Kilmarnock’s Park Hotel on May 20.
The group was formed in 1996 and should have marked its 25th year in 2021, and Covid-19 restrictions meant celebrations were put on hold.
For over 25 years, Killie Heartmates has been the beating heart of cardiac rehabilitation in Kilmarnock, providing exercise classes for those affected by heart disease and their partners.
Two years after Covid-19 thwarted silver jubilee celebrations, Killie Heartmates will finally toast that significant milestone with a dinner in the town’s Park Hotel.
Founding members John and Sheena Thomson will welcome around 40 Killie Heartmates members and guests, including Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Acting Chief Executive Allan Cowie, to the event on May 20. The group has been affiliated with CHSS for almost 25 years.
Sheena says: “We were disappointed that we couldn’t mark our 25th anniversary in 2021, but we are happy to make up for lost time this year. “It sometimes seems a bit unreal that we are still here and still going strong after all this time, but we have a wonderful group of people and have the support of so many others to keep going.”
John, 82, had been part of a cardiac rehabilitation group at nearby Crosshouse Hospital for several years after a heart attack and bypass surgery in 1992 and 1993.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran provided physios and support initially, but financial and staffing constraints meant the board couldn’t commit long-term. Instead, they suggested, the members set up their group.
Killie Heartmates was born with Sheena – who had been there to give John support at the rehab classes – joining the founding committee.
Today the group meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the town’s Kay Park Church hall, being put through a range of physical activities by BACPR-trained instructors specifically aimed at recovering cardiac patients.
Killie Heartmates are supported by CHSS and by East Ayrshire Council’s Vibrant Communities programme.
John and Sheena are also cardiac rehabilitation volunteers with NHS Ayrshire and Arran. In 2018, the dynamic duo was nominated for a national NHS Unsung Hero award for their efforts. Their efforts were recognised when they won the Volunteers of the Year in the Ayrshire Achieves awards that same year.
Now attention turns to that significant milestone as Killie Heartmates prepare finally to mark 25 years of cardiac rehab support in Kilmarnock. Sheena says: “The dinner will be a chance to thank everyone who has helped us, from CHSS to Vibrant Communities to the instructors who come along every week. We couldn’t have done this without their help and support.”
Allan Cowie, Chief Operating Officer at Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, said: “On behalf of everyone at Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland, I would like to congratulate John and Sheena for their fantastic work with Killie Heartmates.
To have been supporting people with cardiac issues with their rehabilitation for over 25 years is a phenomenal achievement which has impacted countless lives in the local area for the better.
“We are proud to be able to support the organisation and hope to see it continue for many years to come.”