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Superhero clubby Lisa M.A. Winters, contributing writer

According to the American Heart Association, nine out of 1,000 babies are born with some sort of congenital heart disorder (CHD).  When Kitty Burton of Omaha, Nebraska had her son Sam diagnosed with a CHD in utero, she nearly fell prey to the expected feelings of helplessness one might expect.  However, instead of drifting into despair, Kitty had an idea one day – she would get a superhero’s cape for her son, a way for Sam to remember that he is strong and powerful even when he doesn’t feel that way, or his parents can’t be there to remind him.

Heart Heroes’ not-so-secret origin started with this cape comment Kitty made to her friends: other moms whose kids have CHDs.  Then when she found Superfly Kids in her cape search, with the flawless timing of true superheroes, the children’s novelty-clothing maker partnered up with these beleaguered yet hopeful parents.  Parents can order custom capes for their own little superheroes on the Superfly Kids page.  Donations support the young heroes getting kitted-out – and not just local heroes. Heart Heroes has sent capes to kids in Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, Mexico and almost every state in the U.S.

“It gives them courage as they go to all the doctor’s appointments,” said Kitty to NBC affiliate WOWT.

“Our kids are heroes and we know it, so it’s comfort for us as well.”  Kelly Whisinnand, another mother  interviewed by WOWT, says her son Duncan, who has a CHD, runs around in his cape all the time, and “Seeing all the other superheroes running around, it’s just amazing.”

It’s not all satin and sparkles, though.  The Cookie Company in Omaha, Nebraska has created an array of CHD Awareness cookie gifts boxes, donating 30% of sales of these Heart-Hero-logo-shaped treats back to the charity.  A superhero has to stay fed, right? Just ask The Flash.

Speaking of The Flash, he might not be allowed to participate at the Super Run events except for posing for photo opportunities.  The inaugural Super Run on this past October 13 had nearly 550 capes billowing behind their owners as Heart Heroes of all ages and their supporters took off around Lake Zorinsky in Omaha, Nebraska.  These superheroes, over five times the number expected, set out to bring awareness of CHD to the community as well as participate in healthy activity together and by all accounts it was a huge success.

Sometimes superheroes don’t need wild bats, spilled chemicals or radioactive spiders.  Sometimes they just need parents who believe in them.

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Lisa M.A. Winters
Lisa M.A. Winters

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