Zipping on their super suits and casual clothes (since not all heroes wear capes), students and staff at Nazareth Catholic College Flinders Park Campus joined the fight against congenital heart disease by taking part in the “Be a Hero for HeartKids” day last Friday 17 June.
Nazareth 7-12 students dressed as their favourite hero characters in exchange for donations which equated to $1,280 for children with congenital heart disease, which is a leading cause of infant death in Australia.
Nazareth was encouraged to take part in the national fundraiser by staff at the local Drakes Findon Supermarket, with Drakes and HeartKids sharing a significant partnership over the past 5 years. Nazareth shares a connection with Drakes as a key produce supplier for the Health, Technology and Food curriculum, and a leading employer of students and graduates seeking part time retail opportunities.
“Our local Drakes store at Findon have always supported our college’s fundraising ventures," said Sue Mills (Leader of Teaching and Learning, Technology and Food).
"This was an opportunity to strengthen our community partnership further,” added Sophie Baker (Education Support Officer), who drove Nazareth's involvement in the fundraiser.
Every day in Australia there are eight children born with a heart defect which means there is one family every three hours whose life will change in a heartbeat.
In 2019, one of those families was staff member Andrew McNicol’s, when his daughter Chloe was diagnosed with a serious heart condition post-birth.
“At six weeks of age, Chloe was emergency flown by the Royal Flying Doctors service from the Womens & Children’s Hospital in Adelaide to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. After a very poor reaction to her first surgery, she went into cardiac-arrest where the medical staff performed life-saving CPR and she spent the next week in a very critical condition on a heart and lung bypass machine. We spent 8 weeks (majority of that time in ICU) as she underwent 4 major open-heart surgeries in her first 6 months of life,” described Andrew.
Heart conditions are lifelong, and many children will require ongoing treatment including open-heart surgeries throughout their life. Chloe, now 3, will require further surgeries as she continues to grow.
“Chloe is living and loving life, and the only reminder of our trauma, aside from the emotional scars of course, is the physical scar on her chest, her “zipper”, which she is very proud of,” added Andrew.
Among our body of super-students flies HeartKid Hamish Fraser (Year 6), who was born with a heart condition similar to Chloe’s.
“When I was a baby, we didn’t find out until I was born that I had a heart condition. When I was 8 months old, I went to Melbourne and had surgery,” tells Hamish.
“When Hamish went to Melbourne for his surgery, HeartKids was there to help us understand the process, and they provided us with a care package that was so helpful,” said Hamish’s mum, Mel.
“They have dedicated staff on the phone if you have any questions, and they help you take it all in as it is happening,” she added.
Now, Hamish enjoys attending HeartKids functions, where he can connect with others just like him, which has helped him “feel less out of place” understanding that there are many other children who share his scars. For Mel, these events provide a valued emotional support for families who have shared the same emotional experience.
Proudly sporting a superhero shirt on Friday, Andew shared the same sentiment towards the HeartKids organisation.
“We are and always will be eternally grateful to all the medical professionals who saved our daughter’s life and to all those at Ronald McDonald House and HeartKids,” expressed Andrew.
“We were incredibly lucky to bring our daughter home, not everyone has that privilege,” he added.
All money raised through Hero For HeartKids events goes to providing support for families with children like Chloe and Hamish, undergoing heart surgery.
The money provides hospital support services, a helpline, parent networking programs, and financial support for families who are doing it tough.
$1,280 is a significant and greatly appreciated contribution to the HeartKids cause, well done Nazareth Catholic Community.