PLAY facilities for children undergoing heart surgery were opened at a specialist centre in the North-East by a family who have raised thousands of pounds for the unit.

The £300,000 of play equipment at the Children’s Heart Unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital was unveiled on Saturday.

The indoor and outdoor facility was funded by Seb4CHUF, a group organised by Whitley Bay husband and wife, Ivan and Nadine Hollingsworth, after their son Sebastian had a life-saving heart operation when he was born five years ago.

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Since then, the couple have organised and taken part in a wide range of charity fundraising events, which have been supported by friends, family and complete strangers.

The events include five coast-to-coast runs, cycles and swims and Mr Hollingsworth has skied down an Alpine mountain wearing nothing but a mankini in sub-zero conditions.

At the official opening, where Seb undertook the official ribbon-cutting duties, Mr Hollingsworth, who now has a place on the board of trustees for CHUF, said: “I have this unit to thank that my son Seb is here at all.

“It’s testament to the care, dedication and skills of everyone here that one of their own heart patients is fit and healthy enough to be bouncing around the play facilities today so much so that he had no interest in actually cutting the ribbon.”

The play facility includes special zones for all ages, including messy areas, tech zones with video games and widescreen 3D TVs, play kitchen, arts and craft and a mini outdoor ‘city’, complete with a railway station and painted train tracks and roads.

Joanne Moore, play specialist at the Children’s Heart Unit, said children can be emotionally traumatised by the situations they find themselves in and the facility will be used for role-playing scenarios that can help put them at ease both before and after their operations and treatments.

Mrs Moore said: “As well as allowing the kids just to be kids, a fully equipped play facility is crucial in both the pre and post operative care of the child.

“We’ll be forever grateful to everyone who has helped the Seb4CHUF cause over the last few years and want to publicly thank them for their support of the unit.”

Later this year, a brand new ‘home from home’, funded by CHUF and The Sick Children’s Trust, is being opened to provide specially-built accommodation for the families of those who have children on the ward, some of whom have to stay for up to a year.