Volunteer work inspired by father

John Dennison, of Ravensbourne, thinks of his father when volunteering for the Heart Foundation....
John Dennison, of Ravensbourne, thinks of his father when volunteering for the Heart Foundation. PHOTO: SIMON HENDERSON
It has been more than 40 years since Dunedin man John Dennison first began supporting the Heart Foundation.

The catalyst was his father dying of a heart attack in his late 60s, when Mr Dennison was in his late 20s.

"He was carting a barrel-load of grass out ... He went down behind the house but never came back, and that is where my mother found him, out the back, after dumping all this heavy green grass."

That event led Mr Dennison to begin volunteering for the Heart Foundation.

"It sort of brought home to me heart attacks are real.

"At that age you never think of a heart attack, but now it is becoming more prevalent, that kids in their 20s are dying of heart attacks."

He began supporting the Heart Foundation Lotteries, and when he moved from Auckland to Dunedin about 20 years ago he volunteered as a collector and then as an area co-ordinator.

Now at 81, Mr Dennison is still helping co-ordinate volunteers in Dunedin, supervising about 100 people taking part in street collections.

He enjoyed taking part knowing he was helping the Heart Foundation raise money, in particular for research.

"To me, the research is everything. They have improved so many things over heart health."

To people who had not volunteered before, he

would say: "Look to your forbears: how did they die; what could you have done to improve their health so they could have lived longer?

"If my father had the benefits of the Heart Foundation when he was growing up, he could have well been alive into his 80s and 90s."

The Heart Foundation was an important factor in finding cures for heart disease and he wanted to make a difference this year after last year’s appeal was cancelled due to Covid-19, Mr Dennison said.

“We had a lot of publicity and everything was planned out and then we had to cancel everything,” he said.

“But all we can do is go again this year and hope for an even better turnout.”

The Heart Foundation is calling for New Zealanders to show their big hearts by volunteering for its fundraising campaign on February 25 and 26.

Heart Foundation medical director Dr Gerry Devlin said improvements in management of conditions such as heart failure, heart attacks and heart rhythm disorders were examples of some of the advances made to improve heart health outcomes for New Zealanders, made possible through public donations.

“We want to continue these incredible advances and enable our researchers, innovators, doctors and nurses to keep shifting the dial to improve heart health for New Zealanders and their families."

Visit heartfoundation.org.nz/big-heart-appeal to volunteer or give.

simon.henderson@thestar.co.nz

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