Community Rallies Behind Local Foundation
By Emma Wolf
In 2007, Brian and Bridget O’Meara decided to start the Mend a Heart Foundation after their son, Liam, was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which means that he is missing the left side of his heart. Congenital heart defects affect 1 in 100 babies in the U.S., which is about 40,000 babies per year. Thanks to the modern medical technology that exists today, Liam has undergone three successful heart reconstructive surgeries and his heart has been reconstructed so that it is able to function with a single ventricle instead of two. With the goal of supporting further research and medical care for other children born with congenital heart defects, Mend a Heart raises money through fundraisers to make a difference in the lives of many. Since 2007, the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization has raised more than $1 million to support congenital heart defect research, high school cardiac screenings and medically-supervised heart camps. The foundation is strictly run by volunteers. In February, they hosted Heartfest 2022, which is a locally sponsored event in which guests were encouraged to wear red in support of heart health. This past year, they raised $170,000 and had 275 attendees.
The event took place at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook and included food, live music from the Hey Jimmy band, silent auction, raffles, and speakers to share their stories. The foundation has connections with cardiologists across the U.S. Mend a Heart established a Junior Board of 25 local high school students to help raise awareness for their mission, reach their fundraising goals, and promote heart health awareness among the young population. The Junior Board includes students from Hinsdale Central High School, Lyons Township High School, Fenwick High School, Benet Academy, and Nazareth Academy. In October, the Junior Board had a chocolate bar sale and used the funds to buy Christmas presents for hospitalized kids at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn. The high school students delivered over 100 presents to the kids in the hospital, as well as seasonal goody bags for the kids’ families to help spread holiday cheer and put smiles on the kids’ faces. Additionally, in February the Junior Board made candy Valentines for cardiac healthcare workers. While there is still much research to be done to learn more about possible cures for congenital heart defects, it is promising and reassuring to know that the Mend a Heart Foundation is making progress in raising both money and awareness for this great cause, as well as bringing families together through networking and connecting at their events.
To learn more about the Mend a Heart Foundation, go to mendaheart.org
*Photos courtesy of Mend-A-Heart organization