World Heart Day is September 29 and the New York-based County Mayo Foundation is doing its part to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by assisting Croí, the West of Ireland Cardiac Foundation, with a crowd funding campaign in the United States.

The campaign is one of a number supported by the foundation, which seeks to serve as a major funding hub for hundreds of non-profits around County Mayo, targeted specifically to the 2.5 million Mayo diaspora across the United States.

Croí has been leading the way in Ireland toward the development and delivery of prevention and recovery programs that are often lacking in rural West of Ireland, which is why the County Mayo Foundation was attracted to its latest project titled, “Mayo Action for Heart Disease and Stroke.”

Croí’s initiative is intended to reduce the impact of heart disease and stroke on families in Mayo, with a particular focus on the farming community living in rural or isolated parts of the county who don’t normally seek out medical advice.

The initiative, a nurse specialist-led screening program, which has impacted over 1,800 people in communities across the county already, offers services in places as diverse as farmers markets, libraries and community centers. It includes free screening for hypertension (high blood pressure) and atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that can cause a devastating stroke. Donations for the program, which is seeking approximately $56,000 from the foundation’s efforts, will go toward the hiring of a nurse and the purchasing of equipment and other overhead costs.

Heart disease is Ireland’s number one killer. It is currently responsible for one-third of all deaths and one in five premature deaths, with approximately 10,000 people dying from cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke and other circulatory diseases each year.

Around the world, CVD accounts for approximately 17.5 million deaths per year, according to the World Heart Foundation.

Mayo residents Ena Dempsey and Kelley Leneghan are among those who have benefitted from Croí’s family-centered outreach.

Ena Dempsey’s husband, Patrick, was rushed to University Hospital Galway last year after suffering from two heart attacks. The 78-year-old former driver had triple bypass surgery at the Galway hospital, remaining in an intensive care unit for seven days.

During his hospital stay, Ena, who lives in Ballina, Co. Mayo, was able to stay in Croí House, a facility with three self-contained accommodation units, all within minutes of the hospital and with immediate telephone access to her husband’s ward.

“It was absolutely amazing,” said Ena. “Traveling from Ballina to Galway is a long, long journey.  Croí House felt like a home away from home, and the staff couldn’t have been nicer.”

The only facility of its kind in Ireland, Croí House provides more than just free accommodation. It is also dedicated to providing education, training, early detection and screening for heart patients.

A large exercise and fitness center, together with specially trained staff, is all part of Croí’s commitment to helping patients recover from heart and stroke events.

For Ena Dempsey and Belmullet resident Kelley Leneghan, whose 69-year-old father, Andy, was air lifted to the Galway hospital, the facility was “absolutely a godsend.”

For both women, committing to a daily three-hour drive is among the hardships that many West of Ireland residents face when their loved ones are taken to Galway for more complicated medical treatments, a service that is not always available in Ireland’s smaller hospitals.

Donations to the “Mayo Action for Heart Disease & Stroke” can be made through the County Mayo Foundation website here. More information about the program can be found at Croi.ie. All donations made in the U.S. are tax deductible.

Frank Delaney and Lorraine Peters in the Croi apartments following Peter’s heart surgery in 2012 while holidaying in Ireland.