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Heart Walk raises research funds, awareness of heart defects

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published September 23, 2015

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Troy resident Melonie Stothers became involved with the Southeast Michigan Congenital Heart Walk and the Children’s Heart Foundation when her daughter McKenzie, aka Izzy, was born with a congenital condition called 22q11.2 deletion syndrome.

Melonie said they learned of Izzy’s condition before she was born.

Melonie said doctors have told them Izzy won’t live to be an adult. After looking into heart and lung transplants, Melonie and her husband, Dale, decided not to go forward with those options.

Izzy, now a second-grader, and her brother, Phineas, two years older than Izzy, play outdoors on a playscape the family received from the Troy-based Jenna Kast Believe in Miracles Foundation. The playscape was delivered to their home a couple of years ago.

The Kasts founded The Jenna Kast Believe in Miracles Foundation in 2005 as a nonprofit organization to honor their daughter and sibling Jenna Kast, who was fighting brain cancer. Jenna lost her battle with brain cancer in 2010.

“She’s at the point where research hasn’t come far enough for her,” Melonie said, noting that Izzy has been on the walks for the past five years they’ve been held. “She loves the event.”

This year’s walk is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sept. 26 at Boulan Park, after being held in Clarkston for the past five years.

Clarkston resident Sally Powers, president of the Michigan Chapter of the Children’s Heart Foundation, said that the growing number of participants in the walk forced the group to look for a different venue.

“We’re so happy Troy has been so welcoming,” she said.

Powers became involved with the organization when her son Sam, now 7, was born with a heart defect. He had three heart surgeries in his first four years of life.

“It’s the most common birth defect and the most deadly,” Powers said. “We wanted to give back and change the future of the disease.”

According to the Children’s Heart Foundation, there are over 40 types of congenital heart defects.  There is no known prevention or cure, and it’s the No. 1 cause of birth defect-related deaths in infants. Nearly one out of every 100 babies in the U.S. is born with a heart defect.

Proceeds from the event are split between the Children’s Heart Foundation and the Adult Congenital Heart Association.

Funds for the Children’s Heart Foundation are used for research, and funds for the Adult Congenital Heart Association are used for services to help adults living with congenital heart defects.

Powers said that out of over 30 walks in the country last year, the southeast Michigan walk raised the most money, over $116,000.

The events at the walk include a rally with guest speakers, food and refreshments, balloon art, musical entertainment, and a balloon release to honor those who lost their battle with congenital heart disease.

The Troy Fire Department will bring a fire truck to the event, and Iron Man and Paws, the Detroit Tigers mascot, will be on hand.

There is no charge to participate in the 1.1-mile walk, and donations are welcome. Registration begins at 9 a.m. To register in advance, visit www.congenitalheart Preregistration for the Sept. 26 event is not required.

Boulan Park is located at 3671 Crooks Road in Troy.