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Selfie campaign launched to raise funds and awareness for Exeter mum Jo

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: April 14, 2014

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Two best friends, one suffering from a rare combination of two terminal illnesses, the other leading a campaign to raise money for treatment which could save her, have launched a Bestie Selfie campaign to generate more funds and awareness.

Within days of launching, the Breathe for Jo campaign this morning smashed through the £10,000 mark.

This incredible amount is down to the generosity of the public all moved by the story of former Exeter College student and mum-of-one, Jo Smith who is battling heart disease and cancer aged 36.

But the target is to raise £30,000 in 30 days, to send Jo to Thailand for treatment which could save her life.

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Via the Just Giving sponsorship page, since the campaign launched on Thursday, April 10, more than 580 generous well-wishers have pledged to the cause.

The Just Giving target is set at £20,000 because for the money to be released the target has to be reached in the time limit of 30 days.

But the real target needed is £30,000 so continued donations are essential.

Through the Bestie Selfie campaign, which recently launched via the campaign Facebook page, Breathe for Jo, both Jo and her best friend Sarah Lacey hope people will be inspired to take a photo of themselves with someone they love and post it on Facebook while nominating other friends to take part and pledging a donation.

People are also encouraged to write ‘Breathe for Jo’ on themselves for the photo.

The best pictures will win the friends involved free VIP access to campaign music festival, Breathe Fest, this July in Northernhay Gardens.

“We were asked by a Breathe For Jo supporter to start the Bestie Selfie Campaign,” explained Sarah. “We love the idea – it could really help raise awareness and help exceed our initial target of £20,000 as planned.

“We want to see pics of children, grandparents, people of all ages with the people they love.

“The best pictures will win free VIP access to Breathe Fest where they’ll get to mingle with the bands!”

Jo was diagnosed with rare heart and lung disease, pulmonary hypertension, 11 months after giving birth to her son Rudey, now aged three.

Within months she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer.

She is thought to be the only person in the world with both diseases.

But Jo is caught in a devastating catch 22 situation – she cannot undergo treatment for the cancer because of the risk to her heart and lungs which have been weakened due to the PH. Neither can she be put on a waiting list for a heart and lung transplant, because she has cancer.

The campaign was set up to raise the money needed to send Jo to Thailand where a doctor is pioneering a type of immunotherapy treatment which could cure Jo’s cancer and also stop the advancement of the PH.

It is her one and only lifeline and she needs it as soon as possible.

Funds will go towards the cost of the treatment at The Better Being Hospital and getting Jo out to Bangkok, for her anticipated 45-day stay.

Jo, who grew up in Exeter but now lives in Broadhembury near Honiton, has described the generous public’s initial reaction to the campaign as “absolutely amazing” and has pledged her heartfelt thanks.

In addition to the immediate fundraising initiative, Sarah, with singer and The Voice quarter-finalist, Adam Isaac, who together run On Track Music Events, have organised Breathe Fest, to be held on July 11, and 12, in Exeter’s Northernhay Gardens.

The two day festival has more than 20 confirmed acts and will feature an eclectic mix of music including folk, rock, pop, reggae, acoustic and soul.

Musicians, all of which are donating their time for free, are coming from all over the country to perform and include Bristol based collective Cut Capers and popular local band Melosa.

In addition, there will be entertainment for all the family, an extensive selection of food stands and two beer tents.

Many local businesses, including Emerald Security and Astley Media, who are providing a range services to support the event are also generously pledging their support for free.

The event is set to cost around £10,000 and more sponsors are urgently being sought so maximum funds generated from the event can be pledged to the campaign.

Every penny raised will go towards the campaign and any excess will be pledged towards helping others with respiratory diseases.

“Thank you to everyone, everywhere,” Jo said. “I’ve been completely overwhelmed by people’s kindness.

“I want to be around for my son Rudey as long as I possibly can and at present the treatment we’re raising funds for represents my best hope of survival.”

Tickets, which allow entry to both days of the festival, can be bought directly from the Breathe Fest website.

They are £35 for adults, £50 for a family (two adults, two children) £19.50 for a child aged 10-17, and free for under 10s.

Anyone interested in corporate sponsorship packages should email, helen@ontrackmusicevents.com

Any bands, performers or suppliers who would like to get involved with Breathe Fest should contact sarah@ontrackmusicevents.com

To donate to the Breathe for Jo campaign visit, https://www.justgiving.com/yimby/breatheforjocampaign#/active

And for more information about the event, visit the Breathe Fest Facebook page or visit the Breathe for Jo Facebook page which has attracted more than 1,320 supporters.

For information and tickets visit, www.breathefest.com

You can also follow the campaign on Twitter at BreathForJo

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