Liverpool Heartbeat is one of the city’s best-loved charities. For the past 20 years it has been run by founder Robin Baynes MBE, supported by his wife Brenda and family, and a dedicated team of volunteers who have organised a wide range of events and projects to promote healthy lifestyles for young people in the region as well as assisting other charities and organisations with their events.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service is an annual award given for outstanding achievement by groups of volunteers. It is the highest award given to volunteer groups in the UK.
When asked what winning the award meant to him and the Liverpool Heartbeat volunteers, Robin Baynes said, “It means everything. It means the fulfilment of 20 years’ work. It’s wonderful for the volunteers to be recognised for their commitment.”
Robin founded the charity in memory of his lifelong friend, Kenny O’Toole, a fellow Liverpool School Swimming Champion. In 2002, Liverpool Heartbeat’s first fundraising event in memory of Kenny took place. It was a sponsored relay swim from Scotland to Ireland by his swimming friends and this is when Liverpool Heartbeat was born.
And 20 years later, Robin wants to honour the memory of another friend, Rob Harrison, who died of covid in 2020. Robin first met Rob when he became a resident with New Start Social Housing Organisation, which was founded by Robin and his family to support people with little or no choice of accommodation.
Rob remained a resident at New Start for almost 20 years and became one of Liverpool Heartbeat’s most dedicated and passionate volunteers, always going above and beyond to support the charity’s fundraising activities.
Robin said, “Rob had been with me from day one and he was such a big part of Liverpool Heartbeat. He would’ve been so excited about this. He would’ve been organising the party for everyone!”
Liverpool Heartbeat’s team of volunteers also includes Liam Hanlon, who has just summited Mount Everest with four Tri-4-Life team members. Liam and the Tri-4-Life team and the volunteers at Liverpool Heartbeat have supported each other’s projects since 2002.
Other volunteers who’ve brought their unique talents to Liverpool Heartbeat are Nicola Broadley, a singer and actress and principal of Ovation Performers, and Sam Jalloh. Born in Sierra Leone and now living in Southport, Sam is an international tennis coach and a well-respected physical, nutritional and mental health coach and motivational speaker.
Phil Davies, a first-class film and video technician, always helps the charity with the filming of their projects. Liz McGovern, a talented development manager, manages projects for the charity. Tim Quinn, who worked for Marvel Comics in the States for 20 years, and was Marvel’s Head of Special Projects, has been working on some exciting creative projects for Liverpool Heartbeat. They are joined by June Ritson (Treasurer for 20 years) and Chris Entwistle (video game creator).
Natalie Reeves Billing, who is a well-loved children’s author and a supporter of the charity, said, “Robin and his team are currently creating a musical extravaganza celebrating the life of an unsung local hero, John Hulley, who was arguably the founder of the modern Olympics. With interactive apps and more comic books, and a video game in the offing, we will definitely be seeing more of Liverpool Heartbeat and its impact across the city.”
Echoing this sentiment, Robin said, “I’d like to say a big well done to all our volunteers and also to our trustees. I’m absolutely delighted for you. Here’s to another 20 years!”
Image: Across Mersey Swim started in 1994. Pictured: Robin Baynes, Jimmy Tinsley, Rob Harrison & Liam Hanlon (organiser of the swim since 2007).