HEART KIDS: Iowa Families Meet For Support

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A group of Iowa families meets monthly to help each other get through some difficult times.

The Help-A-Heart group was founded back in 2006 and for years has helped families who have kids with a congenital heart defect.

Once a month kids suffering from a congenital heart defect can forget all about it and just play.

“If I had to sum it up in one word I would say amazing, it`s not only that you come and have support with each other, but you actually learn,” says Mandy Forkner of Humeston.

Forkner has three kids with a congenital heart defect and lost one son from the condition.

“To know I’m not the only heart mom who has lost a child, we can form our own little angel mom alliance, and it`s pretty neat,” says Forkner.

The group started by providing financial support to families with kids in the hospital.

“It`s obvious people want the support and want to meet other people who have gone through similar situations,” says Founder Emily Graber.

Graber founded Help-A-Heart in 2006 and has seen the program grow from just a few families to more than 100.

The group meets monthly to help families know what to expect during surgery, how to help their kids cope with a congenital heart defect and to meet other families that can relate.

Wendy Meyer helped start the support sessions.

“I wanted to start the support group because I love support and I needed a lot of support and wanted to know other families who have been through the same thing we have,” says Meyer.

With free child-care provided, parents can sit down and share their concerns and personal struggles, while their kids get to enjoy a night with others just like them.

“They`re able to come here and bond with other kids and no they`re not alone, this affects a lot of children and it`s really neat.  For once they can put aside  the doctor appointments and what`s going on with their medication and be a kid and have fun,” says Forkner.

This week is congenital heart defect week and the non-profit group is trying to raise awareness to help more families across Iowa.

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