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Burke girl puts heart in her project

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Myanna Kempton has a big heart — one that required open-heart surgery when she was 5 months old for two congenital heart defects. The 7-year-old has had two other surgeries since then for a release of her tethered spine and a hernia. She knows how scary it can be in the hospital, so she wants to bring a smile to the faces of those facing similar surgeries at Inova Children's Hospital in Falls Church. MyannasHeart, started in April by her mom, Sheri, provides tote bags with gifts for newborn to 12-year-old heart surgery patients.

MyannasHeart has distributed more than 50 bags since May. They have mailed a few across the country. Each age- and gender-specific tote costs $25 to assemble and includes toys, crayons, puzzles, crafts, blankets and a customized t-shirt designed by Myanna that reads “I am STRONGER than my Storm.” Each bag includes an item close to Myanna’s heart — a TY Inc. horse Beanie Boo.

Myanna participates in equine therapy in Fredericksburg. “She loves her horse therapy and thinks the horses will make everyone happy,” said Sheri. Myanna drew a picture and wrote a note to TY, the manufacturers, along with a note from her Mom that described the tote bags and asked for a discount rate. Instead, TY donated more than 400 Beanie Boos, which Sheri said should last two years.

Sheri said Myanna feels good about providing these totes. She even received a certificate recognizing her efforts from the hospital.

“Myanna is taking all the negative things that have happened to her and doesn’t want other children to be sad in the hospital,” she said. “Myanna has special needs, so a lot of it’s hard for her.”

Sheri is working on turning MyannasHeart into a nonprofit. To raise funds, MyannasHeart collected shoes from mid-May through mid-July for Funds2Orgs, which collects the shoes for developing nations. In exchange for shoes, Funds2Orgs will provide money to MyannasHeart.

With the help of their parish, Church of the Nativity in Burke, her school and the community, MyannasHeart collected more than 3,100 pairs of shoes. “People from the parish were amazing, bringing bags and bags of shoes,” she said. “The collection went on for weeks.”

The parish community embraces Myanna, said Sheri. The pastor, Father Robert C. Cilinski, greets Myanna with a handshake or a hug when he processes into Mass.

Myanna will participate in the first Special Religious Development class at Nativity. “She’ll be able to do what she needs to do to get her sacraments, and that’s a great thing,” said Sheri.

Father Cilinski said Myanna is “an impressive little girl and (MyannasHeart) is a beautiful outreach to those facing heart surgery.”

Find out more

Go to myannasheart.com, or email info@myannasheart.com. A fundraiser is scheduled to celebrate Myanna’s seventh anniversary of heart surgery Sept. 18, 5-9 p.m. at Ledo’s Pizza, 8324 Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018