A WHITLEY Bay couple have been handing out belated Christmas presents to poorly youngsters after winning them on a national television show.
Ivan and Nadine Hollingsworth have raised more than £173,000 so far for the children’s heart unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital to thank staff there for saving their son Seb’s life nearly three years ago.
And the pair were given an unexpected opportunity to deliver a further boost to the unit when they were plucked from the audience of the ITV1 show Text Santa on Christmas Eve and offered the chance to win prizes for it.
Ivan, 35, and Nadine, 34, thought they were in the audience for the show only as spectators but were then called up on stage in front of millions of viewers by presenters Ant and Dec, alias Anthony McPartlin and Declan Donnelly.
After playing several games and facing embarrassment after having a photo of Ivan skiing in a mankini for charity broadcast, they won thousands of pounds worth of toys and gifts for the ward.
They went along to the hospital last Thursday to dish them out to children being treated on ward 23.
The couple set up the charity Seb 4Chuf to show their gratitude to the hospital for saving the life of Seb, three this month, after he was diagnosed with the congenital heart defect tetralogy of fallot.
Ivan said: “If it had just been for us to get a bit of praise, that’s not why we do it. The fact that it got the charity some national recognition is really important to us.
“We want the children’s heart unit fund to be as well known and well supported as the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, and hopefully this will have put the charity into the spotlight.”
Nadine added: “When Seb was diagnosed, we were told if he did not have surgery, he wouldn’t live to see his second birthday, and now he is nearly three.
“It’s remarkable what they can do. They saved our son’s life.
“The unit takes children from all over the country, but it has been struggling to gain the recognition it deserves, both regionally and nationally, and we really just want the country to adopt the heart unit fund and support it to make sure it can continue doing the wonderful work it does in helping people like Seb.”
The Hollingsworths have already lined up a series of fundraising events for 2012, including Ivan running 100 miles non-stop in 24 hours and their annual charity ball.
A spokesman for Text Santa said: “We are delighted that Ivan and Nadine were nominated for Text Santa and thrilled that they took the surprise so well with Ant and Dec.”
“This is a wonderful treat for their charity and very well deserved.”
For details of Ivan and Nadine’s charity, click here.