AN appeal to equip 10 schools in the Henley area with life-saving equipment is more than a third of the way to its £15,000 target after just two weeks.
The Millie’s Dream charity has secured two semi-automatic defibrillators and been promised money to cover the cost of three more machines.
Two fathers whose children have connections to the schools have each donated the full cost of a device, while the appeal has raised £2,000 in donations and been pledged another £1,500.
Sarah Roberts, 44, who was inspired to set up the charity because her six-year-old daughter Millie has a heart and lung condition, praised the “amazing” support for the appeal.
“It’s growing and growing,” she said. “I thought after the first week of the appeal it would dwindle a bit but it hasn’t at all.
It seems to be like a snowball going down a mountain, getting bigger and bigger. People have been phenomenal and I’m really grateful. I’m really optimistic that we will fully achieve our goal by Christmas.”
Miss Roberts, of King’s Road, Henley, wants to raise £15,000 to buy 10 defibrillators, costing £1,175 each from Direct365 Supplies.
They will be installed in the six primary schools and Gillotts School in Henley as well as in the primaries in Sonning Common, Crazies Hill and Checkendon.
Caleb Southwell, 46, from Aston, has promised to buy a device because his three-year-old daughter Lorelei will be going to Sacred Heart when she is older.
Mr Southwell, whose wife Jo founded the Henley Fringe festival, has three older children who went to Crazies Hill primary.
Mr Southwell said: “I’ve got a young child and I think any form of support at a school like this is important. It’s a vital thing to have.
If a school can be equipped to cover every eventuality it gives parents a peace of mind.”
Barry Newton, 45, managing director of transport and logistics company GEOS Group, of Station Road, Henley, gives money from his business to charity every years.
He and his wife Victoria have two children, Georgia, 10, and Oscar, six, who are pupils at Rupert House School, which Millie attends.
Mr Newton, from Peppard, said: “As a business based in Henley, we are delighted to be able to help Millie’s Dream. This charity is doing some fantastic work in local schools and as it expands beyond Henley we will continue to offer our support.”
Other businesses and residents have also promised to donate proceeds from fund-raising initiatives.
Lord Remnant, of Northfield End, has donated £500 and has joined Olympic gold medallist Katherine Grainger as a vice-patron of the charity.
Hannah Skaanild, an author from Wargrave, is to donate the proceeds from a set of her children’s books in the Just A Cat... And That Is That series.
Christine Wilson, who owns Henley card company Pink Pamplemousse, will donate 25p from every card sold.
Geraldine Watkins, director of Henley physiotherapy clinic Active VIII and Millie’s godmother, has donated T-shirts, caps and mugs carrying the charity’s logo, while Steve Little, from Blue Print in High Wycombe, has provided two banners for publicity events.
Rupert House School has also pledged to donate funds from its Christmas fair wine sale, which raised more than £3,000 last year.
David Nimmo-Smith, who represents Henley on Oxfordshire County Council, is to investigate the possibility of funding one defibrillator from his locality budget.
First aid trainer Suzanne Stickley, from Stoke Row, has offered to provide free lessons at the schools that receive defibrillators and she is also donating the proceeds from two training sessions at LA Fitness on October 19.
Money will also be raised at a rowathon in Henley Market Place today (Friday). Grainger will launch the event at 4pm and participants, including Rupert House pupils, parents, teachers and former Olympians, will try to row 25 miles on an ergo rowing machine in two hours.
Miss Roberts, who is a clinical director of Active VIII, said she had been overwhelmed by people’s generosity. She cited two people who came into her clinic together and gave her a cheque for £260.
“All the additional support has been amazing,” she said.
“Rupert House has really rallied around me and Millie. The headmistrees has taken it on right from the start.”
The Piggott School in Wargrave and Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common could be next on the list to receive a device and Miss Roberts would also like to include sports clubs.
“I’m looking around in the community at the places where they could go,” she said. “I was at Henley Rugby Club on Sunday and they don’t have a defibrillator there.
“There were children aged between four and 16 playing touch rugby in the junior section. There were hundreds of them and that’s a prime place where you have these young, fit children exerting themselves who could potentially be in danger.”
“I’m also looking at other secondary schools as well as some of the primary schools that are far out and there’s no support from paramedics within half an hour.”
To make a donation, send a cheque, made out to “Millie’s Dream”, to: Barclays Bank, 10 Hart Street, Henley, RG9 2AX. The account number is 23727610 and the sort code is 20-39-53.
For more information, visit www.milliesdream.org.uk