"Little Heart Heroes" dinner leads into Congenital Heart Defect Week

    5-year-old Derek suffers from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (WNWO).

    For nearly 1 in 100 babies, Congenital Heart Defects are an unfortunate reality.

    February is American Heart Month, and some local children were the guests of honor at the Ronald McDonald House in Toledo.

    "Every time I push this button, it makes a loud beeping sound."

    5-year-old Derek seems like your normal child on the outside, a big ball of energy.

    But on the inside, he suffers from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, essentially giving him half of a heart.

    He was one of several "little heart heroes" to be celebrated with a dinner on Wednesday night.

    "When your child is diagnosed with a birth defect, there's a lot of questions and you feel very alone. To know there are other families who have walked in your footsteps and can pave the way for you, it's a big relief," said American Heart Association of Northwest Ohio Executive Director, Sara Hegarty.

    The American Heart Association of Northwest Ohio and Mended Little Hearts came together to put on the event. It kicks off Congenital Heart Defect Week, which begins Thursday.

    "A lot of families are fortunate to not have to deal with it, so if there's something we can do as a way to give support and band together for parents to be all in it together, that we're all together, then I'm all for it," added Hegarty.

    Mended Little Hearts is a parent support group for children with CHDs.

    The local branch was founded by Shannon Bova.

    "My son Reese is almost 7, and I say that with excitement because we were told he probably wouldn't live to see his fifth birthday."

    Reese suffers from severe lung disease, along with his CHD, and has had to face 15 heart catherizations and 3 open heart surgeries in his short life.

    The dinner was designed to bring families together to help raise awareness and present education on how to fight against Congenital Heart Defects.

    "Nobody wants to experience this. They never think this is going to happen to them in their life. This is just a great opportunity for them to know they're not alone and there are so many different organizations within the community who want to help," said Bova.

    To learn more about the Northwest Ohio branch of the American Heart Association, click here.

    To learn more about the Northwest Ohio branch of Mended Little Hearts, click here.

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