IT has been hailed the ultimate team fundraising event – and it will be the final big push to save children’s heart surgery in Southampton.
Today, Have a Heart campaigners will join hundreds of brave paddlers taking to Southampton Water to take part in the spectacular Dragon Boat Festival in aid of Wessex Heartbeat.
A team of 15 campaigners will be racing one of the brightly decorated boats past Mayflower Park in a fast and furious race, four days before they take the fight to save the world-renowned unit to Downing Street.
The massive event will give people one last chance to add their name to the Daily Echo’s petition, which so far has more than 190,000 signatures ready to be dropped on the doorstep of Number 10.
One of those hoping to taste victory is Sam Prior, whose nine-year-old son Aaron was born with a complex heart condition.
Sam said: “This is our very last chance to push the petition to ensure that health bosses are left in no doubt that people are demanding quality when it comes to treating our sick children.
“It will be a great day for people to get together, have some fun and show support for the campaign ahead of DDay on Wednesday when we take our fight to Downing Street.
“It has been a long campaign and the support for the unit so far has been overwhelming so we just hope we can keep the momentum going so that our children will get the top specialist care they deserve in the future.”
The specialist paediatric centre at Southampton is under threat, despite being ranked the second best in the country. Southampton was featured in just one of four options on which the joint committee of Primary Care Trusts will make its final decision by the end of the year.
If Southampton closed, families would be forced to get lifesaving treatment in London or Bristol, at units which experts say fall below the “exemplary” standards that the city boasts.
Go and cheer on the Have a Heart campaigners at Mayflower Park, where there will be music and entertainment for all the family. Racing starts at 10am.