The town was painted red last week as London residents celebrated Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week, spearheaded by the London and Middlesex chapter of the Canadian Heart Alliance (CCHA).
In addition to a flurry of activities and presentations, buildings at both city hall and London Life were lit red to help bring awareness to the 180,000 Canadians living with congenital heart defects (CHD), which is the number one birth defect in the country.
On Feb. 12, a group of youngsters with CHD, along with their parents, took over city hall, meeting with Mayor Matt Brown.
The kids and their families got a chance to meet with the mayor to talk about CHD and how important it is to raise awareness.
For Brown, whose wife Andrea was born with a heart defect, the day held a special significance.
“When she was born the doctors had to wait until she was five years old before they could give her the operation and now she’s great,” he said. “Now I get to go home tonight and tell Andrea I got to meet a whole bunch of special people that have something in common with her.”
Rachael Wright, 9, bestowed the mayor with a red heart, which she helped fix to his lapel.
The red heart was meant to help bring awareness so that all through the week London residents could see it as a symbol to remember those living with CHD.
For Lisa Wright, Chair of the London and Middlesex chapter of the Canadian Heart Alliance, having the mayor share his personal story with the kids was a great chance for them to know that despite the hard times, they can go on to live a healthy and happy life.
“That really was great for the kids to hear, it really brings a lot of awareness and positivity towards the life they can look forward to living,” she said. “It shows they’re really being listened to and supported, and that their city of London really cares about them.”
According to the CCHA, about one in 80 to 100 Canadian children are born with CHD. Sixty years ago, only about 20 percent of children survived to adulthood; that number has since increased to about 90 percent – resulting in a growing population of young adults who require life-long cardiac care.
On Feb. 13, Grade 8 students from St. Marguerite S’Youville Catholic Elementary School continued the week of awareness as they dropped in to the Children’s Hospital.
The group raised over $300, which will go toward families who may have difficulties obtaining resources important to their child’s care.
A tradition for the past three years, the project began as a way to bring awareness to the students that heart disease can affect anyone of any age.
“It’s amazing to see how they’ve created this healthy heart campaign, and with that, helping hands,” said Wright. “They’re giving back and at the same time teaching themselves about the heart, which is just excellent.”
For more information on the Canadian Congenital Heart Alliance, or to make a donation, visit www.cchaforlife.org/donate.