With February being recognized as Heart Health Month, a number of local residents and businesses are coming together to help Saskatchewan children that are dealing with serious heart problems.

Through various fundraisers in and around Weyburn, funds are pouring in for the Mending Little Hearts Fund of Saskatchewan, a designated charitable fund created in partnership with Jim Pattison Children's Hospital Foundation.

"It's basically a community of people," Twyla Sim explained. "A fund was set up to help support people who have heart conditions, children in particular, and their families. And they support some of the research that is going on at the University, and they support 'Champs Camp' which is a camp that my son goes to, for children with heart conditions. So they are monitored, and they bring in Psychologists that will help deal with health-related anxiety. And they also bring in Dental Hygienists, that talk about the importance of cleaning the teeth, because heart infections can result from endocarditis."

The organization was founded in 2016 and provides essential equipment and support to families who have a child with a congenital heart condition.

Sim's son Brasen was born with a heart condition called pulmonary stenosis which later developed into pulmonary insufficiency. Meaning that one of the valves in his heart was closed shut and surgery was required to open it back up. After the surgery, a leak began to form in his heart which will need to be solved in the near future with a replacement valve operation.

Photos courtesy of Twyla Sim

Through the provincial fund, Saskatchewan kids can take part in the Children’s Healthy-Heart Activity Monitoring Program – or CHAMPS Camp, which is a program for children between the ages of seven and 17 years with congenital or acquired heart diseases.

Brasen has attended CHAMPS camp since he was nine-years-old, and has benefitted greatly from taking part in their free programs every year.

"My son started out with the camp when it was just a research project to find out how exercise affected children with heart conditions," told Sim. "So he was a part of that pilot project and everyone that was involved in that study was blown away by seeing other children with heart conditions. And of course the support from other families that we didn't have links with before, we were all so moved by it, so they created this fund to help try to make it continue. So now it's been going for five years and it has just grown and grown and become so much more than it was originally."

Through close monitoring by trained medical experts, Brasen can now play competitive sports like the other kids and doesn't have to worry about his heart like he used to.

Brasen playing football at one of the CHAMPS camps. (Photo courtesy of Twyla Sim)

The Sim family has been holding their own community fundraisers every year since the fun began and Twyla said that her son Brasen has been the driving force behind everything that they do.

"We've done a number of different fundraisers," Sim stated. "We've sold hockey calendars, we've done chores for charities, we've sold hearts that had facts about congenital heart disease, and we've done a number of different things. So this year with COVID and everyone's financial decisions we have decided to do a giveaway. So right now on my Facebook page, my daughter has her own little company where she makes necklaces. And she is giving away a necklace to someone who leaves a comment with a congenital heart disease fact. Then they will be entered to win one of her necklaces. This year is more about raising awareness for us. It is very important to us and very close to our hearts."

Photo of Ember's necklaces that she will be giving away. (Photos courtesy of Twyla Sim)

Another local family has been working hard this year to raise funds for the cause. Jennie Moule and her twin daughters, Morgyn and Myla, began baking cookies at the beginning of the month, and are donating all of the funds they raise to the Mending Little Hearts Fund of Saskatchewan.

Morgyn and Myla making cookies for their fundraiser. (Photos courtesy of Jennie Moule)

"This is the first year we've done the cookie baking and the girls have already asked if we're going to do it again," said Moule. "So this will be an annual fundraiser for our family."

The Moule's cookie fundraiser has become a huge success and they have seen a great deal of support come in from local residents and businesses as well.

"Great Plains Ford graciously donated a $250 cheque plus their staff combined donated $80," Moule stated. "Streamline donated for us, The Rolling Pin next week will be donating one dollar from every loaf of bread sold, and just a lot of family members and friends donated as well."

Moule's daughter Morgyn has attended the CHAMPS camps as she has a congenital heart condition and has undergone multiple open-heart surgeries in the past.

"We stayed at a hotel in Saskatoon and we learned about new heart defects that other people might have to see if we can connect with each other and see if we have the same or a little bit the same," told Morgyn. "We play around sometimes and we do rock climbing when we go. We go swimming and we have our own little classroom that we go to. Sometimes we do some work and write down stuff. This fund helps us to get to know each other and so we can go to camp. I've been doing it [making cookies] with my mom and sister and it's fun. So we hang out on weekends making cookies and it's really fun."

Jennie Moule added that through the CHAMPS camp they have been able to connect with other families in our area that are going through similar situations and difficulties.

"I just think that the fact that it goes towards a good cause is really important," said Myla Moule, Morgyn's twin sister. "There are some of the things that Morgyn has gone and done that I wanted to help with and be there for her. It's a good idea to help out and it's fun. Just to know that it's going towards something good."

So far the Moule's have baked and sold 66 dozen cookies and plan to continue to bake more over the next two weekends. They stated that they never expected this fundraiser to take off as well as it has and plan to continue next year with more planning and expanding their efforts even more.

If you would like to order any cookies from the Moule family feel free to call or message Jennie at (306) 861-4580.

All of the funds raised through the Mending Little Hearts Fund of Saskatchewan will be staying in our province and going towards helping more children that are suffering from heart-related problems.

To learn more about the fund you can visit the Mending Little Hearts official website or you can follow their journey on Facebook.

Together we can make a difference one heart at a time. 💖

Photo of Twyla Sim with her son Brasen. (Courtesy of Twyla Sim)