Billboards are being erected across Derry and Belfast to raise awareness of an event organised in honour of Kevin ‘Kingsy’ King (22) from Eglinton, who died from an unknown heart condition in November 2016.
A promising Gaelic footballer, he played for St Mary’s GAC, Slaughtmanus as well as Tamnaherin Celtic FC.
He had been in goals in an indoor game with friends in Campsie when he collapsed and died.
Following his death, his parents John and Margaret, and brother Martin, learned he had arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) – an inherited heart condition that damages the muscle of the heart and lead to sudden death.
It is estimated at least one young person, aged under 35, dies every month from an undiagnosed heart condition here.
On May 4, two days before what would have been Kevin’s 25th birthday, his family will hold the ‘King of Hearts Ball’ in Titanic Belfast.
Boxer Paddy Barnes, former rugby player Stephen Ferris, and broadcaster Adrian Logan will take part in a panel discussion at the ball with money raised going towards research into inherited heart conditions by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) NI.
Billboards advertising the event show a fit and strong Kevin playing football for Slaughtmanus and are a “stark reminder that sudden death from an inherited heart condition can affect anyone”.Kevin’s brother Martin King said: “Like all families we never thought that we would find ourselves in this position, but unfortunately our worst nightmare became a reality.
“My brother’s death, although sudden, has shown to us as a family that in his short life he had a huge impact on the lives of so many. Sport was his passion.
“Family and friends were his life. Kevin was a dedicated, gentle, and passionate man, characteristics which he demonstrated both on and off the pitch.
“Young people like Kevin, including sports people and others, are dying too soon and that’s why the King of Hearts Gala Ball will have a big focus on sport and how, with research, we can save the lives of our young people.”
Karen McCammon from BHF NI said: “A fit young man like Kevin is the last kind of person you would expect to collapse and die from a genetic heart condition.
“Inherited conditions don’t discriminate and there are many families out there who are carrying a potentially deadly gene.
“All too often, people aren’t familiar with their family history, or they aren’t aware that a sudden death might be linked to an underlying heart condition.
“The King of Hearts Ball is a fantastic way to raise awareness of these conditions and fund research that will help us beat the heartbreak of inherited heart conditions.”