Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary raises awareness for kids with congenital heart disease

Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary is celebrating its 25th year of helping those living with heart disease.

According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation, Heart Month began as a fundraising initiative called “Heart Sunday” in the mid-1950s in British Columbia and has continued to spread around the country.

Heart Beats acknowledges one week in February, more specifically known as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, which runs from Feb. 7-14.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has also officially recognized this week for Calgary, which is given awareness in several other countries too.

Patty Wiebe, chairperson at Heart Beats explains that the awareness factor — this month especially — helps people realize things they may not have known about congenital heart defects (CHD) and heart disease in general.

Wiebe’s 10-year-old daughter has lived with a heart defect since birth. Heart Beats offers support for both parents and children.

“It’s very helpful to be connected with the other parents and another benefit is for her to know she’s not the only person with a heart defect,” says Wiebe.“Heart kids” celebrating Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.
Photo courtesy of: Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary

Wiebe also recognizes that “more adults are living into adulthood [with a heart defect]. There’s definitely a need for more research into adult heart disease,” she says.

Wiebe got involved with Heart Beats as an opportunity to give back and share with others about her own experiences.

Every year Heart Beats also holds an annual family day during their awareness week where families and children with heart defects can get together in support of the awareness week.

The Family Fun Run fundraiser, the Heart to Heart parent-support group, summer camps for kids with congenital heart disease and Offbeats — a teen group for children ages 10-17 with heart defects — are some of the resources that Heart Beats offers for those seeking help.

Surgeries for children are done at Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation in Edmonton. The money raised has gone to expanding the Ronald McDonald House Northern Alberta in Edmonton, so families have somewhere to stay while their children are being hospitalized.

How you can help

Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary:

• Donate to Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary

• Annual Family Event

Saturday Mar. 10, 2012

12 p.m. – 4 p.m.

• Annual General Meeting-

Thursday Apr. 12, 2012

7 p.m.

Heart & Stroke Foundation:

• ‘Heart Month’ canvassing. To learn more, click here.

• Becel, the founding sponsor of the Heart & Stroke Foundation’s The Heart Truth campaign, is offering free cholesterol-screening tests all day at Market Mall from Saturday Feb. 11-13, for more information visit becel.ca

Medication, family day outings, new equipment at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, and research are also where some of the funds are allotted.

Their website also links dozens of resources for parents and children to turn to for more information and advice about CHD.

Jen Beleshko, communications director for Heart Beats Children’s Society of Calgary can relate to the need for such organizations.

Beleshko’s four-year-old son has complex congenital heart defects.

“Suddenly they have a baby that has to be hospitalized the first two months of their life and that really disrupts their work schedule and can really cause financial hardship as well.” Heart Beats helps offset these costs with funds raised.

The support groups have helped Beleshko and her son deal with CHD. She likes being able to meet other people that have gone through some of the same issues and being able to ask them some practical questions.

“Parents like myself go to meet each other and get a lot of emotional support,” says Beleshko.

“There’s really no cure for it. Our children have very complex hearts, meaning they require surgeries and a lifetime of medication and even after that, we don’t really know what’s going to happen in the future,” says Beleshko.

stitus@cjournal.ca