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Heartfest 2014 to benefit kids with congenital heart defects

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 11:11 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014 1:44 p.m. CDT
Guests come together for Heartfest in 2011 to support children with congenital heart defects and medical research. This year's event will be held Saturday at The Community House in Hinsdale.

HINSDALE – In September of 2006, Brian and Bridget O'Meara's son, Liam, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

While the condition may not be a household name, it essentially meant their son was missing half his heart.

"I had no idea until Liam was born how prevalent congenital heart defects are," said Bridget O'Meara of Clarendon Hills, co-founder of the Mend a Heart Foundation. "They are the most common type of birth defect and it's like one out of every 100 kids in the U.S. is born with a congenital heart defect."

It was then shortly after that the couple started the Mend a Heart Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation to support all children born with congenital heart defects, as well as research.

One of the ways the charity helps is by hosting its annual "Heartfest" fundraiser, which is taking place for the seventh year. The casual event Saturday at The Community House will feature a buffet dinner, cupcake bar, food, drinks, live music, raffles and an auction.

"This year we're also asking people to get their red on and come to the event dressed in something red," she said.

O'Meara said the foundation would like to raise at least $60,000 from the event, which will go to a few sources. In addition to supporting research projects at a few different heart centers across the country, the money will go toward working with organizations that do cardiac screenings in high schools to help detect heart conditions in young adolescents.

The foundation is also raising money for Camp Odayin in Minnesota, which serves kids with heart conditions and gives them the opportunity to be at a summer camp in a medically supervised environment.

"That's a camp we've been really proud to sponsor for the past several years and we always try to sponsor 10 kids who can go away to camp," O'Meara said.

After successfully undergoing three reconstructive heart surgeries, O'Meara said 7-year-old Liam is "doing great."

"He is in first grade and he's doing really well," she said. "We still follow-up twice a year with his cardiologist, but we've been very blessed that overall he's been very healthy and had a smooth course of treatment."

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If you go

What: Heartfest 2014

When: 7:30 to 11:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: The Community House, Kettering Hall, 415 W. Eighth St.

Cost: Advance tickets are $60 per person and tickets at the door are $75 per person, which includes food, drink and live entertainment.

More info: mendaheart.org/Upcoming_Events.html

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