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Family of Ben Hammond launch campaign after his death of undiagnosed heart defect

By Rachael Woods

One hundred pupils at Tenterden’s Homewood School are to be offered free screening for heart defects – thanks to the tireless campaigning of a bereaved family.

The screening programme will be carried out by doctors from the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY) after the family of Ben Hammond, who died from an undiagnosed heart defect, launched a fundraising campaign in his name.

Since 15-year-old Ben’s sudden death last July, his Dad Steve and Mum Sheralyn have spearheaded the drive to raise funds for screening.

Ben at the wheel of a Land Rover, aged 13
Ben at the wheel of a Land Rover, aged 13

Their appeal has not only been supported by friends in the village of High Halden, where the Hammonds and their son Archie, 11, live, but also by people across the entire Tenterden district.

Every week in the UK at least 12 young people die of undiagnosed heart conditions, according to statistics from CRY, which conducts its life-saving screening services to prevent other families having to go through the tragedy that Ben’s family has endured.

Steve Hammond said: “We have raised enough money for the first screening day and our well on our way to raising enough for a second screening session.

“It means a lot to us that Homewood School pupils and Ben’s friends have the opportunity to be screened for heart defects.

“It is only fitting that the sessions take place at Homewood School, where Ben attended, although places can be booked by anyone in the community.

Ben was a fit and apparently healthy teenager who lived life to the full, combining work at Plurenden Manor Farm with his studies at Homewood.

A patient undergoing cardiac screening
A patient undergoing cardiac screening

He had just enjoyed had just a enjoyed a birthday cycling treat with friends at Betteshanger Country Park, Deal, when he fell ill at his home in High Halden.

Doctors at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford could not save him and he died just over a week after his 15th birthday.

Since his death a 10-strong core group has been formed of family and friends to raise money in Ben’s memory under the banner of Team Ben Hammond.

The fundraising total stands at more than £13,500, with funds receiving a £6,000-plus boost after London Marathon runners Phil Sweatman, 45, a service manager for CB Motors in Tenterden and graphic designer Nick Vincent, 42, completed the course on Sunday, April 23.

“When Ben died so suddenly it came as a big shock to his friends at school and we hope that screening will provide reassurance to them and their parents" - Steve Hammond

Mr Hammond said it’s the family’s dream to provide screening for all new entrants in Year 10 at Homewood each year who will be 14-years-old, the earliest point when tests can be done.

The Hammonds and their supporters have already raised the required initial £3,500 for CRY’s core funding, after which it costs £5,000 to test 100 youngsters for heart defects.

Mr Hammond added: “When Ben died so suddenly it came as a big shock to his friends at school and we hope that screening will provide reassurance to them and their parents.”

Homewood School principal Sally Lees said: “We are delighted to be hosting the CRY cardiac screening day at Homewood next April. This is such a valuable way to help other young people and so appropriate to remember Ben in this way.”

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