A DETERMINED mother who helped to raise £125,000 to fund research into the condition which claimed the life of her teenage son has been recognised in the Queen's New Year's Honours.

Caroline Gard, 65, found a light in the darkness when charity Cardiac Risk in the Young offered much-needed support on the wake of the sudden death of her 17-year-old son Andy.

Andy died in July 1997, just two days before his 18th birthday.

He was a fit, healthy and sporty young man, but suffered a sudden heart attack.

The charity helped Caroline to realise sudden cardiac death in youngsters is not uncommon and the grieving family were not alone.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Andy Gard

"Through the charity we received a lot of support and were finally able to get some understanding as to what might have happened to him," she said.

"We decided to give something back and started raising money in lots of different ways.

"Since then we have raised £125,000. This isn't just us, but the many people who are behind us.

"He was a really well-liked young man and it was a massive shock, it was completely out of nowhere.

"With that money, we have given a lot to fund research.

"It was then discovered, through relatively simple testing, it is possible to find out if people are at risk.

"We felt strongly as a family that if something could be done to prevent this happening in the first place, it should be done.

"It started small with a local school, testing 40-50 young people."

Clacton and Frinton Gazette:

Caroline Gard and a photo of a young Andy

Now each screening day, where 100 young people can be tested, costs £5,000 to put on.

Since 1997, money raised by the Gard family and their supporters has funded 24 of these sessions, screening 1,897 children.

Three ECG machines have been funded, as well as a screening van.

Now Caroline, from Frinton, will be presented with the British Empire Medal for services to young people and to charity.

One day she hopes to see testing made available to every young person on the NHS.

"There are 12 deaths per week from one of these undiagnosed heart conditions," she said. "If we could test everybody, we would.

"When something like this happens, you're completely at a loss and don't know what to think.

"But looking back, it wasn't all for nothing, something good came out of something horrendous.

"I recall one youngster who didn't know he had a problem, which was easily sorted out with treatment. He was about to go on holiday and he probably wouldn't have survived it."

She added: "This award is really for everybody who has helped to raise money for the cause, including friends, family and all supporters."