Looking back at CRY’s 2020 through COVID-19
2020 has been a tough year for everyone, including CRY and charities all around the country. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began we have carried on working and providing the same support we typically offer, but doing so with CRY’s staff working remotely from home. With most fundraising events being cancelled, screening events coming to a halt, and there being far fewer opportunities to get out and raise awareness due to various lockdowns and tiers of government restrictions, 2020 hasn’t been the 25th year anniversary CRY had in mind.
However, through the lockdowns and unprecedented challenges that this year has presented, there have still been some real positives along the way.
Since the early days of the pandemic we have put together various resources to offer guidance and insight in all areas regarding COVID-19. In March, we posted a statement from CRY Consultant Cardiologist Professor Sanjay Sharma and former CRY Research Fellow Dr Sabiha Gati on our website, which included general advice from how to help avoid infection to help for those living with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. Professor Sharma also completed a Q&A on how to continue exercising through COVID-19, and a FAQ for people living with a cardiac condition. We also created a “Social Distancing with CRY” page on our website, full of details of all the support services we offer and how different resources can be accessed from home, as well as tips on how to continue raising awareness and new activities for children while they were home from school.
In June, we held a webinar with Professor Sharma, Professor Mathew Wilson and CRY myheart cardiologist Dr Michael Papadakis. They gave presentations covering the “facts and fiction” of exercising in the era of COVID-19, how to train and return to exercise, and how to safely return to sport and what cardiac evaluation may be needed.
We are grateful that Professor Wilson was able to join, and we have greatly appreciated everything CRY’s doctors have done through 2020 to share such valuable insight on dealing with COVID. It was good to see that these new resources were helpful for supporters, as one explained after the webinar: “I thought the webinar was excellent – very helpful and great that anyone who couldn’t ‘attend’ can still easily access it. In fact, I know of a couple of people who feel they will benefit from watching it but were just not free today.”
CRY has also received brilliant new support in other areas this year. Throughout 2020, CRY has been partnered with Sunrise Radio, the UK’s largest Asian-specific broadcast media outlet. Sunrise Radio chose CRY as their charity of the year for 2020, and have helped raise awareness with adverts, community messaging, and interviews, including a conversation with Professor Sharma in July.
Then, in November, we were proud to announce the news that international singer songwriter Arjun is joining CRY as our newest official Ambassador. In September 2018, Arjun’s wife, Natasha, died suddenly from an undiagnosed heart condition. Arjun attended the 2019 CRY Heart of London Bridges Walk, organised a fundraising concert (“For Natasha”) at the Hammersmith Apollo in support of CRY this February, and will help to raise awareness of our key messages and fundraising initiatives across his huge fan base and millions of followers on social media.
There have been a couple of stand-out fundraising events that have garnered fantastic levels of engagement from our supporters as well. First, as the typical CRY Heart of London Bridges Walk was unable to go ahead as planned in the capital city in June, we pivoted to a virtual event instead. This gave people the opportunity to still complete their own walk in different areas of the UK, with over 300 people pre-registering to take part and many more joining on the day. The homepage of the CRY website was turned into a message wall, where over 200 people uploaded messages and photos to remember those they have lost to a sudden cardiac death. We also broadcast speeches from CRY Founder Alison Cox, Professor Mary Sheppard from the CRY Centre for Cardiac Pathology, Professor Sharma, and CRY Chief Executive Dr Steven Cox on YouTube and Facebook. A 2-minute silence was held once the speeches finished.
“It is incredible how, even with everything that has happened around us, you are still finding new ways to support us,” Dr Cox said to CRY’s supporters in his speech. “Whilst we know that the next 12 months are going to be very tough, we also know that we are going to come out of this as strong as ever before.
“The strength of CRY has always been that you, the families, have decided to make a difference for others, through raising awareness and funding screening and research you are saving young lives and you are stopping other families go through what you have been through.”
Next, there was CRY’s Raising Awareness Week in November, from the 14th to 22nd. This is always a great time for people raise awareness however they can, which was still the case this year thanks to some new initiatives and the power of social media while we went through England’s second national lockdown. And as November 21st was the 25th anniversary of CRY receiving its charity status, it was the perfect time to reflect on the past 25 years and for people to get involved. We particularly highlighted CRY’s research and support services this year, and held the 9th annual CRY Great Cake Bake and introduced a new fundraising event: The 12 a Week Challenge.
This event gave people the challenge of completing 12 miles over Raising Awareness Week by walking, running, hiking, cycling or jogging to represent the 12 young people who die each week from young sudden cardiac death. 175 people took part, and raised an amazing total of over £33,000! We are so grateful to everyone who took part, helping to ensure that Raising Awareness Week was still a big success despite the impact of COVID.
Throughout this year, we’ve also been running a series of blog posts on the CRY website, “Looking Back at 25.” This has helped us mark CRY’s 25th anniversary by remembering important parts of the charity’s history and looking at how different milestones, events, and supporters have helped take CRY to where it is today.
“We’ve been reading all the 25 year blogs and it’s been really interesting to see how much CRY has grown over the years and the amount of work put in by Alison in the early days – very inspiring to say the least,” said one of CRY’s supporters.
If you’d like to go back and read any of the articles in this series, you can do so here.
Even though we weren’t able to have the kind of 25th anniversary we had planned with more typical events, there are still clear positives to look back on. Now, as we look ahead to what will hopefully be a brighter year in 2021, we can continue in our creative efforts to raise funds and awareness, and work to restart CRY’s screening programme as soon as it’s safe to do so and we have enough large venues in place to host events.
Thank you to everyone for all your continued support through this difficult year.