Dave's family on the top of Pen-y-Fan. Credit: Shannon McGuigan

Hilly’s Heroes aim to save lives after dad’s tragic death aged just 49

Dave Hill died following a cardiac arrest and now his family want to give free CPR training

FOUR siblings have come together to save the lives of others in the community after their dad died from a cardiac arrest at only 49 years old.

On the morning of July 18, Dave Hill, 49, woke up saying he felt unwell. Seconds later he collapsed in his Fairwater home which he shared with his wife Debbie Hill and stepson Jack Clarke. 

Jack, 20, performed CPR on his stepdad for 20 minutes until the ambulance arrived.

Dave used CPR to save lives during his 22-year career as a lifeguard. He passed on this vital skill to Jack by using the Nellie the Elephant song – meaning Jack could give his stepdad the best chance of survival.

Amy Williams, Dave’s stepdaughter said: “While he was doing compressions, all Jack could think about was Dave’s voice singing the Nellie the Elephant song.”

Dave Hill. Image credit: Hilly’s Heroes: The Restart a Heart project

Dave – fondly nicknamed ‘Hilly’ – was well-known in the community. He worked at Fairwater Leisure Centre as a lifeguard and swimming instructor for over two decades, teaching generations of locals how to swim

Cameron Clarke, Dave’s stepson said: “He taught so many people to swim. If you were driving with him in the car he would constantly be waving at someone. Dave knew just about everyone.

“He kept people laughing and always had time for everybody.”

Now Dave’s three stepchildren Amy Williams, Cameron Clarke and Jack Clarke along with his son Nathan Hill have created Hilly’s Heroes: The Restart a Heart project – so everyone in the community has access to free CPR training.

Amy, 30, said: “Because Dave taught Jack how to do CPR, he can go away knowing he did everything he could to save our dad. We want to give other people that opportunity.”

Cameron, 28, added: “How lovely to know that our loss could save someone else in the community. The project is another positive way we can remember Dave.”

CPR and cardiac arrest statistics created via Infogram. Image Credit: Shannon McGuigan

72% of cardiac arrests happen in the home, according to Resuscitation Council UK. The survival rate is only one in 10 but performing CPR increases this chance by more than double.

The family, alongside Dave’s long-time friend Dawn Evans from the Ajuda Foundation, are working together to deliver free defibrillators and CPR training to local schools and community groups. So, if the worst happens, others have the tools to give their loved ones the best chance at life.

Dave’s stepchildren. (From left) Cameron Clarke and Amy Williams. Image Credit: Shannon McGuigan

Once someone has completed a Hilly’s Heroes CPR training session, they officially become a ‘Hilly’s Hero’ and receive a certificate to show they are CPR trained.

Amy said: “CPR skills are often overlooked but it is really important. You can’t do the rest of your education if you aren’t alive.”

Cameron continued: “We want to create an army of Hilly’s Heroes, so his legacy of saving lives goes on.”

50 days for Dave

To kickstart Hilly’s Heroes: Restart the Heart project, the siblings are taking on a 50-day fundraising challenge in the run up to Dave’s 50th birthday on March 15. The money raised will go towards placing defibrillators in local schools as well as a bench in Dave’s memory.

Each sibling is doing their own unique challenge over the 50 days. The eldest, Amy, is running 500km, whilst Jack is swimming the distance of the English Channel.

Cameron and Nathan are climbing Pen y Fan every day, ending their challenge by completing the Three Peaks – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – in 24 hours.

The 50-day challenge hasn’t been easy for the family, especially while fitting it around their full-time jobs. But the siblings are determined to complete the 50 days for Dave.

Nathan, 26, said: “If the roles were reversed, he would do this for us. It gives us strength because we know it’s something he would want us to do.”

Cameron added: “After 50 days we are still here. Sadly, Dave’s not but it would be nice to remember him every single day in the process.”

The community has been all hands on deck – taking part in the fundraiser to help the project get going.

Up to 50 others in the community are also taking part and doing their own challenges. Some are giving up hot showers for the period, while some crisp addicts are giving up their daily packet of Walkers.

If the roles were reversed, he would do this for us.”

Nathan Hill, Dave’s son

Cameron said: “Before we even set foot on Pen y Fan, we raised a grand and a half within three days. It shows what the community thought of Dave.

“He was a very popular guy. There were about 400 people at his funeral – so as soon as we mentioned it was for Hilly, everyone wanted to be involved.”

Money raised will also go towards buying a memorial bench for Dave. It will face the cricket pitches on Llandaff Fields – a special place for Dave and everyone who knew him. He would help organise annual charity cricket matches held there for Kyle’s Goal – a brain injury rehabilitation charity run by a close family friend.

“It would be great to have a place for people that loved him, especially my Mum. She can sit and have that space to be with him. Somewhere to remember the good times of watching us play on the cricket fields together,” said Cameron.

  • For more information about Hilly’s Heroes: The Restart a Heart project click here
  • To donate to the Hilly’s Heroes fundraiser click here