The spirit of giving on show at Heartbeat of Football luncheon

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By Andy Paschalidis – Heartbeat of Football Founder

My feet still haven’t touched the ground as I reflect on the biggest and most successful Heartbeat of Football (HOF) fundraising event since our charity launched in 2016.

Last Friday, June 23, 180 people gathered at the iconic View by Sydney – part of the Con Dedes Waterfront Group – to celebrate the “Never say Die” Matildas journey and to focus on women’s heart health which rarely gets the attention it needs and deserves.

Females were in full force at the luncheon. All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.
It was a full house at the luncheon.
Males and female came together in support of Heartbeat of Football.

Typically, there was a great deal of support from the Greek Australian community which ensured we reached unparalleled heights raising close to $50,000. The auction secured $19,000 and the raffle just over $9,000. Every item in the auction and raffle was donated. Incredible.

What this means is that HOF can now start planning to deliver an extra 25 heart health testing days in collaboration with the preeminent Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, Novartis and Response for Life.

Potentially we could now be testing a further 1,500 people. We have already conducted 37 testing days in 2023 and this will escalate with 12 activations to come in Melbourne, Geelong and Bendigo from July 1-16.

What our charity does is unique providing FREE heart health checks for three modifiable risk factors – blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure – as well as AED/CPR confidence sessions. The numbers don’t lie. In 2023, our average shows that 49% of those tested have issues.

Cardiovascular disease is our biggest killer and the mission of our amazing team of volunteers has never changed. We must reduce the curve. We must ensure defibrillators are at ALL sports grounds and that they are accessible and in working order. We must be ready to apply CPR knowing that defibs are automated and will “talk” you through the process.

It’s all about the chain of survival knowing that 16 players have been saved in the last 20 incidents in stark contrast to 15 deaths in 18 incidents between 2014-2016.

All smiles.

In NSW alone, the previous Government outlaid $6 million between 2017-2022 for defibrillators to be rolled out into sporting clubs and community groups. I know the benefits ever so well with my beloved Pontian Community the beneficiary of a defibrillator at our Pontoxeniteas Club in Sydney. Does your club have one?

Several ladies who have worn the green and gold of the Matildas joined us on Friday, including Sarah Walsh – Football Australia Head of Women’s Football, Legacy and Inclusion – as well as Heather Garriock (HOF Ambassador), Kate Gill, Catherine Cannuli, Mara Watts, Deborah Nichols and Taylor Ray.

The luncheon was in support of the Matildas and the upcoming Women’s World Cup.
Females in full force.

Matildas star and HOF Ambassador, Caitlin Foord, provided us with a pre-recorded welcome before HOF Member Karen Grega took over as emcee and did such a commendable job.

Media personality and Football NSW Deputy Chair Stephanie Brantz facilitated a wonderful panel which featured Garriock, Gill and Cannuli – players who have featured in World Cup and Asian Cup tournaments.

Panel with Matildas players.

“I am getting nervous and anxious with the Women’s World Cup just weeks away,“ Garriock said.

“It will be such an amazing experience for our team playing in front of sellout crowds on home soil with the world watching.

“It reminds me of what it was like having played at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. This will be life changing in so many ways but also unite our nation.”

I had the opportunity to interview Sarah Walsh, who has such a rich history in our game, before Dr Lucy McGrath-Cadell (Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute Researcher) gave us an overview about SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection), which is unique to women.

It was then the turn of Deb Nichols, who like Kate Gill flew up from Melbourne, to tell us about her life changing SCAD incident which almost resulted in her death. Confronting yes, but it’s vitally important for women to know about SCAD.

Heartbeat of Football founder, Andrew Paschalidis.
Dr Lucy McGrath-Cadell gave people an overview about SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection).

It gave me great pride that The Greek Herald and Sydney Olympic FC were committed to being major sponsors of this unique luncheon. It didn’t take too long for the likes of Oz Hair and Beauty (Guy and Anthony Nappa), Waratah Florists (Anne Andrade) and Con Dedes to follow.

We were blessed that tables were booked by the likes of Football Australia, who had 12 female guests led by Maria Foundas, Football NSW hosted by CEO John Tsatsimas, Football St George led by Chairperson Irene Hatzipetros, Paul Aspros (PSK Private Wealth), The Greek Herald and of course Sydney Olympic with President Damon Hanlin inviting several players and coaches from both the men’s and women’s teams along with Angelica Georgopoulos, Taylor Ray, Ziggy Gordon, George Beltsos, Labinot Haliti, Lawrie McKinna and former Socceroos star Peter Katholos.

Sydney Olympic FC contingent.
Members of Sydney Olympic FC’s women’s team.
Sydney Olympic President Damon Hanlin (left) with The Greek Herald’ Sports Editor Takis Triadafillou and Publisher Dimitra Skalkos.
Irene Hatzipetros (left).

“What you and your charity do is unique and we should all get behind it,” Maria Foundas said.

“We will always support your mission knowing it is saving lives and creating greater awareness. It was wonderful to see such a female specific event come to fruition.”

So many corporates and individuals attended as well as representatives from nine local associations and committed charity partners including Crash Claim Accident Management, Deploy Football, Novartis, Jason Connolly Memorial Cup and Bing Lee who were represented by another former Sydney Olympic and Canterbury Marrickville Olympic player Spiro Hantzis.

The luncheon raised close to $50,000.

Our amazing team of HOF Board Members and volunteers has a very heavy strong Greek Australian influence led by ex-Sydney Olympic defender and current Hurstville City Minotaurs 045s champion Nick Plataniotis, Niki White (Nikstar PR), Lea Safouris-Stevenson, Christine Stavropoulos, David Petranker and Esta Paschalidis-Chilas.

Niki is a recent addition to our Board and her professional background broadens what we can deliver as a charity. In fact, Niki also manages Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord and organised two framed jerseys which secured $13,500 in the auction.

The spirit of “filotimo” is in our DNA. It’s the gift of giving back to the community – a trait instilled in all of us given the journey undertaken by our parents, grandparents and great grandparents in leaving their homeland after the Second World War.

Now I get set to meet with Steve Kamper MP – the NSW Minister for Sport and Multiculturalism amongst his four key roles in Government. Steve was there when our Charity launched just over seven years ago but couldn’t make it last Friday because of Parliament commitments. We were blessed to have Dr Marjorie O’Neill MP attend in his absence.

Andrew Paschalidis (second from left) with Eleni Petinos MP (left), Esta Paschalidis-Chilas (second from right), and Steve Kamper MP (right) on launch night for the Heartbeat of Foobtball.

Next week I look forward to heading to Melbourne in my donated Crash Claim (Nick Karagiannis) vehicle – again the spirit of giving but at the same time a mobile advertisement for heart health.

All I ask of you is to get a regular checkup much like Guy Nappa’s father Elio did recently. He underwent quadruple bypass surgery at 59 years old and counts each day as a blessing.

My family know this feeling only too well. My father Chris Paschalidis lived for 93.5 years and he underwent bypass surgery at 84 years old. No doubt that gave him extra years for which our family feel so blessed.

All I ask for now is that our Federal Government steps up with a National Strategy to address cardiovascular disease – our biggest killer. As I have said time and time again no one should die playing the sport they love.

* All photos copyright The Greek Herald / Andriana Simos.

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