The Sick Heart

I have spent several hours this week opening envelopes and counting dollars for a Hope For Brianna fundraiser. I am still not done, but I am not complaining.  As you can read here, Brianna is a little girl in Dreamer’s class who needs a heart transplant.  I ran the Miami Marathon to raise funds for her COTA (Children’s Organ Transplant Association) campaign, and with the help of many others we raised over $3,700.  And this week, instead of hosting the annual Jump Rope For Heart event to benefit the American Heart Association (a very worthy cause indeed), our school decided to create a “Jump Rope For Brianna’s Heart” fundraiser instead. Here, each child  fundraised at least $5 to get an extra half hour of playtime on a school day.  We thought this created a good opportunity to involve the kids by having them be responsible for getting the money.

One day's worth of envelopes

One day’s worth of envelopes

And “getting the money” they did.  As I opened envelope after envelope, I realized many went over the required $5.  One envelope came full of coins; another with the names of several people at an office who raised over $100, and yet another with a picture of two sisters who collected over $370 by going door to door with a poster. 

Since I have been involved in raising funds for Brianna, the boys had seen me run the marathon and organize this event.  So I didn’t make much of a fuss with my own kids, and they each donated from their “savings.”

The fundraiser was split into three days so all grades could participate.  To make it happen, the PE Coach organized with the school’s administration and donated his lunch time each of these days to oversee the activities. On Wednesday, it was the Kindergarten and First graders turn.  Children were sitting down in lines when he asked if someone knew why they were there.  A first grader stood up and confidently addressed the crowd.  He said something along these lines:

“Brianna’s heart doesn’t work too well and she needs a new one.  So when another kid leaves his body, that heart, if it works, will be put into Brianna and we are helping them pay for all of it.”

I kid you not.

Wow.  Someone’s parent has definitely used this fundraiser as a teachable moment.

I hadn’t.  But the opportunity was not totally missed. That day, as we drove home, I spoke to my own kids about Brianna.  Dreamer was in her class last year, and the whole school is aware of her condition.  But the little boy’s rational explanation triggered something in me … did my boys understand WHY we were helping her?

Our conversation went something like this:

“Does your heart work well? Do you have everything you need? Do you have a great family, food, a chance to have fun and ride bicycles?”


“Did you do anything to deserve all of that?”


Okay, so that line of questioning wasn’t working ….

Hope For Brianna, COTA“Do you think Brianna did anything wrong to get a heart that doesn’t work well?”


I paused.  I also didn’t know where the heck I was going with that one.

I changed tactics.

I told them Brianna didn’t do anything wrong to get a sick heart.  Sometimes it happens.  But unlike her, they have perfectly healthy hearts. It could’ve been the other way around; one of them could have the sick heart.  And if that were the case, wouldn’t they want people to lend a hand?  Wouldn’t they like to know that their friends were thinking of them when they received cards? Wouldn’t they feel good to know that their school family was organizing to help them?
An unequivocal “yes” resounded.

And I was able to show them  just how helpful people were such as:

The Coach who volunteered his lunch time and thought up the whole event:

Coach developed the whole event and coordinated with the teachers and Principal to make it happen!

Coach developed the whole event and coordinated with the teachers and Principal to make it happen!

The moms who came to help out, and even jumped rope in heels:

I don't even own a pair of heels anymore.  Much less jump rope in them.

I don’t even own a pair of heels anymore. Much less jump rope in them.

The kids who wore purple, pink or red on their day to honor Brianna:

Kids were able to wear red, pink or purple (her favorite color) to school on the day they were going to jump

Kids were able to wear red, pink or purple (her favorite color) to school on the day they were going to jump

And the children who wrote her cards and notes and well wishes:


 Jump Rope For Brianna, COTA, Hope For Brianna


I hope you get a heart soon!

I hope you get a heart soon!

I could go on and on.

And today if I ask Fearless why we need to help Brianna, the homeless, Kerry and our #ThumbsUp campaign, my dad with his Parkinson or any other cause, the answer is quick and clear: because it could’ve been me.

You bet. Instead of Maria at the ICU, it could’ve been me fretting over one of my kids. Those of us who are healthy, who have received a great education, who have resources and support … we have the responsibility to help our neighbors.  This was instilled in me, and I am grateful Brianna is giving me the opportunity to instill it in my own children.

And so the fundraiser took a big chunk of my time, and hence this post did not go out on schedule.  The boys help me open the remaining envelopes and count the money.  They don’t complain about it either.

You can contribute here to Brianna’s COTA campaign.

How do you teach your children about helping others?



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