Heather and Mike Shaffer, pictured above, found out early in their pregnancy that one of their twin boys, Tyler, had a congenital heart defect. They knew he would be faced with several open-heart surgeries, and his survival wasn't guaranteed. But what they didn't know was how Tyler's fight would change their lives.
The brave little boy in the photo above and below, showing off his last open-heart surgery scar, inspired them to help more kids like Tyler get the treatment they need—and to help fund research to prevent congenital heart defects like his. As co-chairs of the Red Tie Ball
, the annual fundraising gala for the Children's Heart Foundation, Heather and Mike are creating better futures for kids and families in Chicago and beyond.
Read on for more of their story and how you can help.
What's your personal connection to this cause?
My husband, Mike, and I got involved with The Children's Heart Foundation after the birth of our twin boys in February 2010. One of our boys, Tyler, was born with a severe congenital heart defect that required three open heart surgeries before his fourth birthday. Quite simply, if it weren't for advancements in congenital heart defect research, Tyler would not be alive today. Based on the care he's received and the exposure our family has had to amazing doctors and nurses, we wanted to give back and do what we could to advance the importance of funding research for congenital heart defect research. The Children's Heart Foundation is the only organization dedicated solely to funding congenital heart defect research.
Why is this charity so important for Chicago kids?
It's not widely known, but congenital heart defects are America's, and every country's, No. 1 birth defect, and the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States. The mission of The Children's Heart Foundation is to bring health, hope and happiness to children and families impacted by a CHD by funding research to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of congenital heart defects. CHF was founded and is headquartered in the Chicagoland area and supports doctors and researchers at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Advocate Children's Hospital and many other institutions. CHF has funded more than $7.3 million in vital, life-saving CHD research since its inception. Chicago is home to some of the finest children's hospitals in the country, and we want it to continue to lead the way with groundbreaking pediatric heart care research.
How has being involved in this charity affected you as a parent?
Tyler will have limitations and require medical care for his entire life. By being involved with CHF, it allows us, as parents, to feel like we're a little more actively involved in his care. It takes years for advancements in medical technology, but we've got to start somewhere! It feels truly rewarding to know we are playing a part in funding research that one day could save Tyler's life, or the life of one of the thousands of other children affected with a CHD.
How can people get involved?
On December 5
, the Illinois chapter is hosting the 2nd annual Red Tie Ball honoring leaders in Pediatric Heart Care at the University Club of Chicago. You can purchase tickets or donate by visiting the event page.
October 27, 2015 at 3:13 PM