Mark (8) inspires marathon effort

Ballymena woman Mairead Agnew with her young neighbour Mark Lynn who has inspired her to take on the Berlin Marathon on September 16 to raise money for the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland.
Ballymena woman Mairead Agnew with her young neighbour Mark Lynn who has inspired her to take on the Berlin Marathon on September 16 to raise money for the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland.

A Ballymena woman is taking on one of the world’s most famous marathons to help raise money for the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland.

Mairead Agnew was inspired by her young neighbour Mark Lynn, who has complex congenital heart disease, to enter the Berlin Marathon and is gearing up to cover its 26.2 miles on September 16.

At just eight years old, Mark has undergone four open heart surgeries and numerous cardiac procedures.

In 2015 he was diagnosed with heart failure but that still hasn’t stopped Mark and his parents Donna and Geoff supporting the British Heart Foundation Northern Ireland (BHF NI) and raising almost £3,000 for the charity.

Mairead said: “My sister was born with congenital heart disease so this is a cause that has always been extremely close to mine and my family’s hearts.

“When I saw the wonderful fundraising that Mark and his family had raised, I wanted to do something to help. When I told Mark I was taking on the Berlin Marathon, he was sure he wanted us to support BHF NI once again.”

Karen McCammon, Health Services Engagement Lead for BHF NI, said: “When the BHF was founded in 1961, eight out of every 10 babies born with congenital heart disease died before their first birthday.

“Our research has helped to turn this around, and now eight out of 10 babies survive to adulthood. Breakthroughs such as these are only possible because of the support we receive from supporters like Mairead, Mark and his family. We are therefore extremely grateful for all their efforts.”

BHF have also developed pioneering surgical techniques to treat complex congenital defects. Their work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. Research funded by the charity has led to the development of the portable defibrillator, advances in pacemakers, transplant surgery and the development of cholesterol lowering statins.

However, there is still much more work to be done. For children like Mark, who have complex congenital heart disease, treatment can be much more difficult. Mairead, Mark and his family are keen to raise as much awareness and funds as possible and are asking everyone to support in any way they can.

If you’d like to support their fundraising efforts, you can donate to Mairead or Mark in person or call into any of the following businesses in Ballymena to make a contribution: The Moat Bar, Kockeden Lodge, Credit Union, Willy Allen’s Butchers, The Mace, Ballykeel Chemist, Molly Malone’s Chip Shop and A Star Valeting and Detailing, Ballymena. A Star Valeting and Detailing are also running a special offer until September 1 in support of Mark and Mairead’s fundraising for BHF NI and £2 of every full valet will be donated to the cause.

All money raised for BHF NI will support the charity’s work in Northern Ireland including investing almost £2.9 million into research at Queen’s University. The BHF’s support has also allowed more than 65 per cent of post primary schools in Northern Ireland to do CPR training.