A FATHER-of-three from Crediton who lost his mother to a cardiac arrest is organising a comedy and networking night on March 23 to raise funds for charity.

Raj Panchal (39), is helping to put on a night called "Funny Business" at The Terrace in Exeter to support the charity, British Heart Foundation (BHF).

He chose to support the BHF as his mother, Jaya, died suddenly in 2017 at the age of 66. 

At the time of her death, Raj was in Budapest on his brother’s stag weekend. Not wanting to tell his sons the news while they were out of the country, their father only told them that their mother was unwell and had been taken to hospital. 

“It was the day we were flying home when I first heard something was wrong,” remembers Raj. “I started to get messages through on my phone and I knew it was serious. From that point on, my brother and I just wanted to get back as soon as possible.

“We drove to my parents house to meet my dad. When my brother and I walked in, my wife and dad was there and I asked my wife, ‘When are we going to see mum?’

"She told me you can’t and burst out crying. That’s when dad told me that mum had died. It was devastating. What had been one of the best weekends of my life, suddenly went to being the worst."

He continued: “There was no warning that anything like this could happen. I’d seen my mum just before going on the stag-do. I said I loved her, and she made me promise to look after my brother. I never imagined that would be the last time I would ever see her.” 

After coming to terms with the loss of his mother, Raj decided that he wanted to support the BHF by becoming a volunteer speaker.

He is now helping the charity again by choosing them as the beneficiary of the networking event that he set-up with three friends.

Launched last year, "Funny Business" aims to provide the local business community with an informal way to meet other business owners whilst raising money for charity.

Their first event, which was held in October, raised more than £2,000 for the Children’s Hospice South West. 

Raj, who runs an IT company called ClearYolk, said: “A lot of networking events can be quite formal. So, when we set up Funny Business, we had three simple aims: make people laugh, help them make new contacts and raise a whole load of money for charity." 

Raj added: “We have a cracking line-up of comedians who will be sure to entertain! And anyone coming along can enjoy themselves in the knowledge that they will be helping a fantastic charity that is helping improve and save the lives of people with heart and circulatory diseases.”

In Mid Devon, heart and circulatory diseases cause the death of around 20 people each month.

The BHF funds research into all heart and circulatory conditions, such as heart attack and stroke, and their risk factors like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Mark Hawkins, BHF Fundraising Manager, said: “We are honoured to have been chosen as the beneficiary of this event.

“For more than 60 years, we have funded research that has turned ideas that once seemed like 'science fiction' into treatments and cures that save lives every day. But millions of people are still waiting for the next breakthrough.

“It is only thanks to the generous support of the public that we can keep research going and discover the treatments and cures of the future.”

Funny Business 2 takes place at The Terrace in Exeter on March 23. Tickets cost £30 and can be purchased online at: eventbrite.co.uk/e/funny-business-2-tickets-514043035557 .