A life-saving charity, set up in memory of a popular grassroots footballer who died playing the game he loved, will celebrate a major milestone this weekend.
The namesake Stephen Carey Fund was officially launched in 2013, following the death of the 21-year-old from Alnmouth in 2012.
And on Saturday, the charity – created by those who knew and loved the talented midfielder – will install its 100th defibrillator in Northumberland.
The life-saving piece of equipment will be unveiled at The Farriers Arms, Shilbottle, by members of his family, Fund representatives and parish councillors.
To mark the century, the defibrillator will be kept in a specially-decorated gold cabinet.
Chairman Scott McEwan said: “Reaching 100 defibrillator installations in four years shows how well-loved and respected Stephen was and his memory inspires trustees of his charity to make Northumberland heartsafe in his name.
“It is a fitting tribute and legacy to Stephen, because he is at the core of everything that we have done and what we continue to do.
“It is in his memory that we are doing this and to leave a legacy for him; through his name he will be protecting communities thanks to the defibrillators.”
Stephen died in July 2012. He was playing a pre-season friendly match for Alnmouth when he rose to head the ball and, as he landed, he collapsed. Despite the efforts of players, coaching staff and supporters, Stephen never regained consciousness.
It was later revealed that Stephen had an undiagnosed heart condition.
As the Fund prepares to install its 100th defibrillator, Stephen’s mum Joy Bowman said: “We are, as Stephen would be, proud and grateful to all of the Fund members, their families and all who support Stephen’s fund. It keeps Stephen’s name spoken and his memory alive. Hopefully, it will continue to do so for many, many years to come.
“We miss him more than words could ever say, however, we are thankful due to the defibrillators being placed over Northumberland that no other family will have to live the nightmare we live every day.
“The achievements of the Fund, with the amount of defibrillators placed, is the only thing that brings our family any sort of comfort.”
Indeed, what the Fund has achieved over the last four years has surpassed expectations and it shows no signs of stopping.
The charity offers training – including CPR – for free and has installed defibrillators around the county in towns and villages such as Alnmouth, Alnwick, Amble, Berwick, Bamburgh, Felton, Hadston, Otterburn, Rothbury, Seahouses, Shilbottle, Warkworth and Wooler.
It has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations, grants and through its own fund-raising efforts since launching. The Fund was also the beneficiary of the Gazette’s Jam Jar Army campaign in 2014, collecting more than £10,000.
In 2015, vital first-aid training provided by the Fund helped save a life, as Andy Tomlin used the skills he had learnt 24 hours before to help a stranger who had suffered cardiac arrest in Morpeth.
And last year, quick-thinking locals at The Sun Inn, Acomb, used a defibrillator to save Jim Patterson, who had collapsed and stopped breathing. The defibrillator had been installed at the village hall just months earlier, thanks to a Hexham Courant campaign, run in partnership with The Stephen Carey Fund.
The Fund’s 100th defibrillator will be unveiled at The Farriers at 6pm and will be followed by a celebration, with music by State 4 from 8.30pm.
Scott said: “Two lives have been saved through The Stephen Carey Fund. To go from such a tragedy to installing 100 defibrillators and saving two lives is absolutely amazing. It is fitting that the 100th defibrillator is being unveiled at The Farriers, because we had our first fund-raising event at the pub back in 2013.”
The Fund may have reached the impressive milestone, but the committed team is not stopping there.
Scott said: “There are still areas in Northumberland that need defibrillators and every town could always have more, to make them totally heartsafe. We hope to have many more defibrillators installed in the future in Stephen’s name to protect the communities in the North East.”
Scott has thanked everyone who has supported the Fund over the years.