Making young hearts happy

NEWPORT BEACH — Ten-year-old Isabel Morris had a bagful of homemade Valentine's Day cards she made for her classmates out of index cards, highlighters and sparkly heart stickers, but she won't be in class Monday to deliver them.

The Newport Elementary School student will instead spend Valentine's Day delivering blankets and socks to babies and toddlers recovering from heart surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Isabel, along with friends, collected the items for the second annual Happy Heart Day, a donation drive she started last year to help children going through what she did as a baby.

"I think it's really great because when the parents see [the socks and blankets], they are so grateful they just have to thank you over and over again," Isabel said Friday at her house on Lido Isle. "It just brightens up the dull, little hospital rooms."

If anyone knows the inside of a hospital room, it's Isabel and her family.

The energetic fourth-grader was born with truncus arteriosus, a congenital heart disease that left her with a deformed pulmonary artery, said her mother, Jill Morris.

Isabel had three open-heart surgeries before she was 3 years old, the first when she was only 7 days old, and she has one more to go when she stops growing.

Morris estimated they will be delivering close to 500 blankets and 300 pair of socks — a significant increase from the 76 blankets and 67 pairs of socks they collected the first year.

Happy Heart Day started with the students in Isabel's third-grade class participating.

The idea came out of an essay Isabel wrote last year in Sharon Barth's third-grade class about how to help the community.

"I decided to bring my essay to life and make a charity," Isabel said.

This year, all of Newport Elementary has gotten involved and four of Isabel's friends got their schools to participate.

Luke Slutzky, Geoffrey Von Der Ahe, Zoe Stern and Dylan Gallagher — who also underwent open-heart surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles — spread the collection drive to St. Mark Community Preschool, Harbor Day School and Mariners Elementary School.

Morris said the family hopes to make Happy Heart Day an official nonprofit organization in the future so they can continue to give back to the doctors and surgeons that helped Isabel.

"It's nice to see how she's giving back to people that helped her so much," she said.

How To Help

Drop off blankets and baby socks at Newport Beach Elementary School at 1327 West Balboa Blvd. in Newport Beach.

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World