Mended Little Hearts
Nominated by Susan Carlisle
Although Mended Hearts, Inc. has been around since 1951, acting as a support group for patients who suffer from congenital heart disease (CHD), it wasn’t until they realized that kids with heart defects have different needs than adults that they created an offshoot organization known as Mended Little Hearts in 2004 to deal with the unique challenges faced by the families of children with CHD.
Unfortunately, it was one year before MLH’s inception that Jodi Lemacks and her family faced the scariest period of their lives alone and unsure of where to turn for help…
In 2003, Jodi and her husband were devastated when they were told that their third son, Joshua, had been born with a severe heart defect requiring three separate surgeries—one that very first day and two more by age three. Jodi remembers just how lost and isolated she felt back then. Though Joshua pulled through—and survived his two subsequent surgeries to live a normal childhood—Jodi knows just how lucky they were to make it through that difficult time.
Determined to prevent other families from undergoing that same ordeal alone, Jodi left a burgeoning law career to volunteer at the nascent Mended Little Hearts program in central Virginia, before eventually being hired for the national staff in 2007 and becoming MLH’s national program director.
MLH’s main goal is to help families of children with CHD connect with other families for support, either online or in person. With over eighty groups in the United States and Mexico, and over ten thousand MLH members, connecting these families with others lets them know that others have experienced the same issues and survived.
Other beneficial services Jodi helps organize include arranging educational webinars, providing in-hospital services, acting as advocates for families, fund-raising and raising awareness of CHD as the most common birth defect in the United States.
But Jodi knows better than anyone that, for an organization that is almost 100% voluntary, providing the range of services and support they do is only possible through hard work and dedication from everyone involved. “When the people we’re trying to help let us know that we’ve made a real difference to what they’re going through, it means the world to know that we matter to them. And when they want to give back to help others, that makes all the difference…”