Hayden’s Heart Raises Money to Benefit Familes Dealing with Heart Defects

Erin Pedrini
Web Production Assistant

Hayden Dorsett. Photo courtesy of Ady Dorsett.

“Hayden was the strongest boy that I have ever known. He went through so much in his short time here and it was a tough life. But looking at Hayden, you would never know that he had anything but a perfect life,” Ady Dorsett said about her son Hayden, who passed away as a baby from Congenital Heart Defect. Ady and her husband Rob founded Hayden’s Heart to help families with babies suffering from CHD and raise awareness, in memory of their son.

They founded Hayden’s Heart in October 2012 in North Arlington in honor and memory of Hayden Dorsett, to keep his memory alive. “Hayden and I developed the rarest relationship out of what we went through together. He couldn’t verbally speak, but I’ve always said his eyes spoke to me. His smiling was so telling of his love for me and I know I will never experience a connection like I did with Hayden. When Hayden died, I felt lost — like I had no purpose any more. I was used to living my life around and for Hayden that I didn’t know what to do with myself, which is a huge reason why we started this foundation,” Ady said.

Congenital heart defects are America’s number one birth defects and it is the leading cause of all infant deaths in the United States. Nearly one out of every 100 babies are born with CHD. This is why Ady said that it is important to raise awareness. “We raise awareness because it is so unknown and because CHD can strike at any time. The more people are aware of this, the better their chances are of early detection in their own child,” she said.

Ady said that having a baby with CHD was not easy and she lived on the edge of her seat every day because she never knew what the day would bring. She said that so many questions would run through her mind such as, “Would Hayden be admitted to the hospital today? Would he eat by mouth? What new medications would he be put on? When would we be able to go home again and be a family?”

“The things we see our children go through is tragic. No parent should ever have to watch their baby go through pain like a heart mom or dad do,” Ady said.

Hayden’s Heart benefits families with children who are fighting CHD by holding several fundraisers a year. For each fundraiser, a family in need is chosen and is honored and helped financially with expenses such as medical bills. The organization also sends care packages to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, where Hayden was cared for. The packages are sent twice a year — on Hayden’s birthday and Christmas. They also send small financial help to families in need of immediate relief, such as gift cards for clothing, paying for stays at the Ronald McDonald House or hotels while their child is in the hospital. The group also sends funds to families whose child has died from the heart defect and need help paying for funeral costs. In addition, Hayden’s Heart sends care packages to grieving families, through a branch of the organization called “Grieving Hearts,” which was started in March 2013 and has sent out 60 packages so far.

The Dorsett Family. Photo courtesy of Ady Dorsett.

In order for Hayden’s Heart to be able to provide all of those services to families, the organization raises money by planning fundraising events in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. This year, Hayden’s Heart is holding two 5K run/walks, two golf tournaments, a car wash and a silent auction raffle. Also, anyone is open to plan a fundraiser with proceeds going to Hayden’s Heart.

The next event, one of the 5Ks, is being held in North Arlington March 8 at Riverside County Park South. Registration starts at 9 a.m. and the event starts at 11 a.m. The registration fee is $35 and you can register to participate ahead of time online. This is the second annual 5K and Ady said she is anticipating that the event will be very successful.

“The event starts out with a 5K run/walk and a one-mile toddler trot. It then will become a birthday party for Hayden with a face painter, balloon artist, kits for kids to build with Home Depot, party favor bags filled with heart goods for the kids, cupcakes and the event concludes with singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Hayden while everyone blows bubbles to heaven and Hayden’s older brother will release balloons up to heaven,” said Ady.

Last year, the 5K raised $12,000 and Ady said she would like to try and top that number this year. This year, part of the money raised will go to help Kellen Jackley, a toddler with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome who is preparing for his third open heart surgery in April. The remainder of the money raised will go toward the foundation’s other methods of helping families.

Hayden Dorsett. Photo courtesy of Ady Dorsett.

Ady said the best part of Hayden’s Heart, for her personally, is keeping Hayden’s memory and making sure his memory lives on when he physically cannot. She is proud of what the organization has accomplished so far and loves the amount of families that have been helped and the amount of awareness that has spread for CHD. She said that the most rewarding part of what she does comes from hearing from families that they have helped and hearing how what the foundation has done for them has impacted their lives and helped them when they needed it the most. Ady said that she knows she is making Hayden proud and that makes her beam inside.

“Hayden amazed me and thousands of others with his fight and his strength. He found a way to impact more people in five months than most do in 50 years. He changed the way people viewed the world. He inspired people to do better. He taught people the real meaning of life — to cherish what you have while you have it and to live each day to the fullest,” Ady said. “He reminded us of what was really important in life — spending time with those you love and making the most of each day. He was such a special gift given to the world for an incredibly short time but what he did while he was here is unheard of.”