Happy 3 years Hayden's Heart!!

29 October 2015

It is said that it can take 3-5 years to know if a business is going to be a long-term success.
Hayden's Heart is celebrating THREE YEARS this month and I am proud and excited to say that we are one of the lucky ones- we are a success- we continue to grow each month- and we have no plans on slowing down.

Three years ago I sat across from Rob on my couch and I can remember it so vividly. Telling him I wanted to start some foundation for Hayden- I needed something to do with my time that would be more beneficial than walking around my house crying all day. I remember asking him what we should call it- and him immediately responding 'Hayden's Heart'. It was so simple, so obvious- yet now that name is a household fixture for so many people around the world. It's overwhelming to try and process how far we've come.

I remember our first event- slightly thrown together in less than two months (very typical of most of the first run-through of our events- even the retreat we put on this past month). Hayden never made it to my hometown in Williamsport, PA so it just felt right to host our first official event there. With the help of a friend who managed a well-known restaurant, and the help of my sister and best friends, we pulled off a successful auction to honor Weston Keeton and his special family. I knew at the close of that event we were meant to do this in honor of Hayden- this was my new calling in life. Honoring Hayden and helping as many heart families as we could along the way.

Fast forward a few months and taken from an idea from our neighbor, the three of us hosted our first annual 5K Birthday Bash. Looking at how far we have come in the second and third years for that event is honestly so breathtakingly amazing. I can't help but tear up when I see the progression we have made the past few years. And this coming March we will be celebrating Hayden's fourth birthday with our 4th Annual 5K. It still doesn't seem real that he would soon be 4.

We also host two golf tournaments annually and are excited to add two new events to our calendar this coming year! Pennsylvania will be hosting a formal silent auction with a Historical Baseball theme in the spring, and in just under a year we will host our first inaugural Heart of Gold Gala! This event will honor a pediatric cardiologist and will also be a formal silent auction. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook page for more information on these exciting events!

We started out with four board members- two of which were Rob and I, and the other two we asked to be on the board just to sign the federal documents. We are now ELEVEN board members strong and I am beyond thrilled and honored to have each one of them a part of our team. They have all been inspired by Hayden and by what we are doing in his memory and honor and I know I can speak for both Rob and myself when I say we know how blessed we are. Along with our dedicated board, we also have several committees working on events and other parts of the foundation. Each member of our team, both the board and the members of our committees play a large role in our success and I cannot stress enough how grateful we are to have each and every one of them! Big things are happening for Hayden's Heart, which means big things are happening for our heart community!!

In the past three years, we have significantly helped 18 families financially through our events, as well as several other families throughout the year. We've sent almost 100 Grieving Hearts care packages- a number I am not happy with or proud of- being that means all of those families are grieving, just like us- but I am honored to have our foundation send them some comfort and love in their tragic time. We have and continue to extend our hospital care packages to other cardiac floors on the east coast and are starting to prepare our holiday packages going to four different pediatric hospitals in just over a month!

And...something BIG is coming very SOON for Hayden's Heart- I can't share it just yet- but it won't be long and I promise you it is well worth the wait. Its been in the works for over 2 years- and finally everything is falling into place just perfectly. I truly cannot wait to share it with all of his supporters- with all of you. So hang tight...

This post isn't written to toot my own horn- it is to toot all of yours. Hayden's Heart is run by my family and our board and committees- but truth be told, we would be nothing without all of your support. Without you, we wouldn't have a reason to host events, wouldn't have the funds to send care packages or financial relief. I share this success with all of you, because it is YOU who have helped us get to where we are.

I humbly and graciously thank you all for making our little dream and vision a BIG success. And the best part is, we are just getting started!!

(we recently updated several sections of our website- please take a minute and read all about our new board members, as well as other sections on our website)

Healing of the Heart...indescribable

13 October 2015


These words were given to me by the 24 women who attended our first ever 'Healing of the Heart' Retreat. Having just a few months to plan it and pull it all off, I'd say those words speak volumes of success.

Friday started off shaky with a possible hurricane on the way- thankfully all the flights were still on time and everyone arrived safe and sound. But boy was it rainy, cold and messy.
Our mothers were greeted with shoulder massages donated by a heart warrior, Sam, and her friend Beth. The ladies were already feeling the love and starting to relax and settle into what would turn out to be one of the most powerful weekends of their lives.
Once we got everyone checked in, they had some time to dig through their overflowing welcome bags. Words of excitement and awe filled the rooms. Every item handpicked for these mothers- all in attempts to spoil and shower them with love and support. (MANY thanks to anyone who sent us items, solicited items, donated funds, and created perfect keepsakes for our mothers!)

We then took some time to introduce ourselves and our angels. Starting with an emotional slideshow of our angels and leading into each mother lighting a candle as they prepared themselves for a weekend that would revolve around their angel, their pain, and hopefully lead to the start of healing their hearts.

Following dinner, we spent the next 7 hours in a room together- sharing our angels birth, life, and then what led to each of their tragic deaths. If any of you have ever heard me tell my story- you know how emotionally draining that alone can be. Now multiply that times 24 and you can only try to begin to imagine what we all experienced that night. 
I woke up the next morning feeling depressed, couldn't stop crying and feeling like I had failed. If I felt this bad, my guess was others did too and I felt nothing near a healing experience- but quite the opposite. I felt like I was about to slip back into a hole of my own depression- and everyone else's there too. 
When planning this retreat I figured we would need some ways to freshly start our days and had a friend coming from home to provide light stretching and calming techniques through yoga. 
Elie walked into the room that morning and was brought to tears by the overwhelming sense of our angels' presence in that space.  She immediately somehow knew how best to lead our group that morning and over the course of an hour, I felt some of the pain lift and the tears stop. After our time together, I was more prepared to face day two in hopes that the feelings of healing would continue through the rest that was planned. 
The rest of the afternoon we spent working on our healing- having group discussions, group art therapy, and were given gifts of love to remind us of how supported we are through it all. By the time dinner rolled around, you could feel the unity and connection we all had to one another. So deeply connected...
The evening lent itself to tough topics again, but ended on a much lighter note than the first and the friendships and bonds grew deeper with every passing hour. I personally haven't laughed or cried so hard in one day ever in my life. 
I woke up Sunday with a clearer head and as I went to get ready for our morning yoga with Melody, I noticed the sun peeking out through the trees. A smile and tear came together as I really couldn't believe how perfectly the weather that weekend mirrored our emotional weekend together. Friday started off horribly- worried mothers might not even make it to us. And now here we are less than 48 hours later- and just like the change in weather, so too were our moods. Saturday had been a tough start, but the healing did begin. I looked forward to our last day together hoping that things could only get better from here. 
The weather was mild enough to have yoga outdoors and just like Saturday, our instructor sensed our placements within ourselves and put on the perfect start to our day. She focused on our bond and togetherness- how to build off each others strengths in times of need and how to appreciate the relationships surrounding us. And as tears streamed down our faces, we looked around our circle at one another knowing our lives have truly been altered being in each others company. I felt so blessed in that moment and I have to believe others felt it too...  
Once yoga was over, we quickly transitioned to our last group activity- one I had been looking forward to all weekend. Two generous and talented women came to join us for a group art class- painting our retreat logo! So many of the moms were excited about this- what a relaxed, fun and memorable way to end this emotionally tense (at times) weekend! And what a perfect keepsake to hang in our homes always in view and a reminder of this very indescribable time together!   


Now comes the hardest part to put into words. Our closing. We tried to to release butterflies but the weather just wasn't going to cooperate with us for that so we did a handful of balloons and everyone wrote messages to their angels. I thanked Hayden for leading me to Amelia's blog about her retreat for her son, Landon.  I know none of that was by chance- but because he knew if he planted that seed in me I would find a way to make this happen- and he was right. I am always and forever thankful that I was chosen to be Hayden's mama and that he knows I will carry out any mission he brings my way in his name

We released them together and to me, this was the toughest part of the entire weekend. I knew what this symbolized. I knew this meant it was over. The weekend that we had spent a few intense months planning was coming to an end. I wasn't prepared to make the friendships and connections I did. I was hoping to just be in a space with other moms just like me and didn't really think about what would happen when we had to say goodbye. After we released them, we all kind of stood there. Like now what? None of us were ready or prepared to say goodbye. So, we all kinda just stood there. Watching our balloons, crying, taking selfies, laughing, hugging.
It took awhile till the cars started to fill and drive back down that long dirt road. And as the last cars were leaving, I made one last stop in the house just to do one final look through. And as I did that, the tears came back full force. I was so sad to have my new friends leave, but even more than that I was sad my weekend with Hayden was over. As a mother to three other children, rarely do I have time to be with Hayden- really be with him. To think about our life together like I did this weekend. To allow myself to cry-laugh- and cry again anytime I want. Not having to wait until my kids are asleep, or when I'm driving home from a photo shoot- but anytime I wanted. Like so many other moms there that weekend, we mask our emotions and feelings. Some because they have other kids to keep it together for, some because we feel judgements from the outside world that we should be 'OK' by now, and some out of just sheer uncomfortableness of grieving so outwardly in front of the world. Whatever the reason, I am honored and blessed to have been able to give these mothers a weekend where they could come to and grieve their child- their baby, their toddler, their 'big kid', their teenager. All weekend long mothers kept thanking me, telling me how amazing I am- and I kept shaking off thinking- you have no idea how special it is to be able to execute this for all of you- how amazing all of these women are to have trusted in us, some flying from all parts of the country, to spend a weekend with people they had never even met. SO, I say thank YOU to those 23 moms who made the trip- trusted in us- and came together to heal.
This experience has for sure changed my life.  No words or blog will ever do justice in describing what I and the other mothers felt on this weekend retreat. No thanks will ever be enough to so many of you that helped make it happen. This blog was my attempt to show a little insight into our weekend together and to deeply thank all who made it possible. Because it definitely wouldn't have happened without a ton of incredible people whom I am confident Hayden hand-picked to be on this journey with us. Thank you to all of our volunteers for the weekend- for setting up, for working with our moms in either massages, yoga or art. For donating items, sponsoring scholarships, making food, sponsoring crafts, securing items for our bags, and so much more!

Thank you Amelia for creating something so worthy of mimicking.

Thank you Sabrina for believing in me, keeping me sane, and for helping to make this happen.

And of course...for you- and because of you- always thankful for you my sweet, sweet Hayden...

3.12.12 - 8.16.12

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