A family will walk 110 miles this summer as a tribute to their “heart hero” son, Callum, who underwent life-saving open heart surgery last year.

Ricky Wooldridge, who’s Callum’s dad, is an on-call firefighter for Devon & Somerset FRS – based at Okehampton and North Tawton Fire Stations – and plans to walk from Bristol Children’s Hospital to Okehampton Fire Station in full fire kit and breathing apparatus.

He’ll be joined by two colleagues, Tim and Dan, who are also on-call firefighters and plan to wear the full kit.

Meanwhile, Callum’s mum Sam and his grandad Kev, who works with Ricky as an on-call firefighter at North Tawton, will take part in normal clothing.

The group are raising funds for us and two other charities, as a thank you for the support they received during Callum’s health journey.

“Callum underwent months of tests in Bristol from the age of 8, after having numerous symptoms including chest pains which then led to him not being able to participate in any form of exercise for months,” says Ricky.

Ricky Wooldridge will walk 110 miles in full kit and BA

Ricky Wooldridge

“He was later diagnosed in July 2023 with a very rare heart condition ‘anomalous intramural right coronary artery’ and was booked in for open heart surgery early August 23 to repair the course of his right coronary artery to his heart.

“Callum was the strongest of the three of us before the operation! Sam and I were thinking the worst, but he was really brave.

“His operation was a success and he has since been able to re-join his football team and is enjoying life to the full again. Without his operation, Callum would not have been able to play any sport as he was at risk of cardiac arrest.”

Ricky Woolridge and his colleagues will walk as a tribute to his brave son Callum

During Callum’s time in hospital, we offered the family financial guidance and support, to help them fund travel to and from visits.

“All Callum’s appointments were in Bristol, so it meant time off work and long drives,” says Ricky.

“I’d previously had support from The Fire Fighters Charity myself after doing my back in when I first joined the service. Then it was Sam’s dad who suggested we get in touch about financial support.

“With driving to and from appointments, having time off work and the cost that came with Callum in hospital, as well as being off school for a long period of time, the charity supported our family with financial aid to help relieve some pressure whilst going through the worst time of our lives.

“Receiving the financial support we did was truly overwhelming.”

Ricky Wooldridge

“It was a massive relief and weight off our shoulders when the Charity helped reimburse some of those costs. Our focus was completely on Callum, so to have that support with finances was so appreciated.

“Receiving the financial support we did was truly overwhelming, so this walk is our way of giving back.”

The group will split all funds raised between us and two other charities: The Grand Appeal, which helps fund life-saving equipment to Bristol’s Children’s Hospital, and Ronald McDonald – a charity which has 14 houses across the UK that give families a ‘home from home’ whilst their children are receiving treatment in hospital.

To support the group’s fundraiser, click here:

Support the fundraiser

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