HeartGift Louisiana Helps Kids In Need

HeartGift is an organization that has helped over 400 children with life-saving congenital heart defect surgery in over 34 countries. For $25,000 each child, HeartGift brings the patient to the United States where the surgery is preformed. The patients surgery, travel expenses, medicine, recovery and more is covered.

Louisiana’s HeartGift chapter which was formed in 2010 has helped 54 children from around the world. Stephanie Berault, the executive director of the chapter, shared a young girl’s story of how her life was changed by HeartGift.

A native to the Philippines, Keona is a two year old with a congenital heart defect known as a ventricular septal defect. Keona has a hole between the two lower chambers of the heart which is a serious condition. HeartGift flew her and her mother Maricar to New Orleans where Children’s Hospital in New Orleans performed heart surgery.

“I can’t imagine someone telling me ‘Your child is sick and I can’t fix it,’” Berault said. “And then to say ‘There are people out there who can fix it, but I can’t get you there. I’m sorry.’

“It’s heartbreaking.”

From the time Keona and her mother landed at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport to the time for recovery HeartGift was there. They were greeted at the airport with gifts and balloons. HeartGift paid for the cost of the hospital stay which was $18,000. The surgery cost approximately $300,0000 which was comped by Children’s Hospital.

“When you see the transition of a terrified mom getting off a plane, you get it,” she said. “She’s never left home before, she’s showing up with her sick child and trusting us. You see that, and then you see when they leave a month later and she’s crying with gratitude.

“She’s going home with a child who is well. That’s tangible and real. It’s an amazing thing.”

HeartGift of Louisiana could not do this without funding and help from Children’s Hospital in New Orleans. The chapter’s team works hard to raise money for the cause.

This year they will host the inaugural Crawfish and Cornhole event that will be held in The Sanctuary in Mandeville. There will be 32 teams that will participate in the tournament and of course there will be a crawfish boil.

“When people get involved with HeartGift, they become invested,” Berault said. “It’s always very personal.”

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