Ryan Heal, longstanding and popular CEO of the much-loved Rockinghorse Children’s Charity is stepping down from his post next spring after 8 years in charge.
Ryan, 44, took charge of the Brighton & Hove based charity in September 2012 and revived its fortunes to lead it through one of the most successful periods in the charity’s 53-year history. His journey with the charity began with a very personal connection to the cause when his son was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder back in 2011.
The care that his son received at The Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital was hugely supported by the wonderful work that Rockinghorse had achieved in supplying equipment to the front line – to the benefit of thousands of local children – including his own.
“Rockinghorse will always hold a very special place in my heart. My son, John, was first admitted to the Royal Alex (the first of numerous admissions) aged 4 in 2011 and the nursing staff could just not get him still enough to insert a standard canular. This went on for some time until the 3-D Pain Distraction unit (fully funded by Rockinghorse) came into the room! On went the 3-D glasses and he was away in a virtual reality, smiling away as the nurse not only got the canular in but was able to take as much blood as she liked!! This was the start of my Rockinghorse journey, I was amazed that this piece of “kit” was fully funded by the charity. 1 year on from that initial experience I was invited to become the charity’s Chief Executive and what an honour it has been. I have so many wonderful memories, it’s impossible to document them all.”
At the time of moving from his role as Managing Director of local radio station Juice 107.2FM back in 2012, Ryan was asked of his motivation to move into the charity sector. He said at the time: “I’m here to do all I can to turn the charity around and, at the same time, hope to see my son’s health improve.”
Over 8 years on, both objectives have been met with considerable success as he led the charity in doubling its fundraising income whilst crucially not increasing the charity’s running costs. This strategic approach enabled the charity to give away over half a million pounds during the charity’s Golden Jubilee in 2017.
Often misconstrued as one of the larger charities in Sussex, the entire fundraising team at Rockinghorse has never exceeded five staff during his tenure. On a personal level, his son is in good health having been discharged from the care of The Royal “Alex” & Great Ormond Street in 2017.
Ryan is keen to thank the Trustees he has worked with over the years and especially praises the many staff, sponsors and volunteer supporters he has had the pleasure to work with and going on to say of the staff team, “They have all made such an important contribution to the sustainability of the charity for many years to come. It’s been a genuine honour to lead them.”
Phil Frier, Chair of the Board of Trustees at the charity, said, “We have been lucky to have Ryan as CEO for these past eight years, in which time he has developed the charity and led the team with magical effect. AS CEO he has achieved outstanding success in not only raising significant funds but also working with the Trustees to ensure that funds have been spent wisely in supporting the needs of the many children who have benefited across Sussex. He has given the charity an excellent platform to enable us to continue supporting the Royal Alexandra Children’s’ Hospital and other Sussex based children’s’ organisations for many years to come.”
Dr. Mohammed Rahman, consultant pediatrician at The Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and Vice-Chair of Rockinghorse praised the impact felt on the front line: “Our hospital and its ability to provide excellent care is, in no small part, enhanced by Ryan’s vision, dynamism and leadership. We will miss him.”
The past 8 years has seen many highlights, from the visit to the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital from Rockinghorse’s Royal Patron, HRH Princess Alexandra, to winning multiple awards including Outstanding Contribution to Charity and The Argus’ Outstanding Contribution to Sussex Award in 2018. Additionally, Ryan ran the London Marathon for the charity in 2015 raising over £10,000. Rockinghorse has also been the beneficiary of his “Best of British” events, since joining the charity, and helped raise hundreds of thousands of pounds along the way. Ryan looks forward to continuing these events in the future, supporting many good causes, including Rockinghorse.
In moving onto the next stage of his career, back in the corporate sector with his own business consultancy & events business, he reflects on his time with a humble satisfaction saying:
“I hope that when the Rockinghorse story gets written, my tenure as CEO will be remembered as a successful period where the focus was always on fundraising the right way, leading from the front, and leaving the charity in a strong financial position allowing Rockinghorse to continue to do exactly what it was set up to do, which is to provide the best possible equipment and care for the children in our communities that need our help the most. The charity will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I look forward to continuing to support Rockinghorse for many years to come.”
Ryan will continue to operate in Sussex and is looking forward to working across the many business networks, he has cultivated over the years, as part of his new ventures. He will remain in post at the charity until the Spring of 2021.