HEART HEROES YOUTH PROGRAM
The Heart Heroes Youth Program (HHYP) is a group comprised of 10 to 18 year old heart kids who meet to have some fun, get to know each other and support others who have experienced growing up with heart disease. Although their CHD does not define them, we recognize these youth deal with tremendous stress. They have questions and various issues that parents and medical staff alone do not have answers to. By connecting with other heart youth, they can support each other, talk, and most importantly know they are not alone.
Currently the program is headed by Sean Knox, (an adult CHD’er who participated in the HHYP program), and Kimberly Craig (a mom to a heart hero youth).
Lea Legge, nurse clinician at the Variety Children's Heart Center and Annette Massey, heart parent who attended Circle of Hearts Family Support Network support meetings, felt it was important for pre-teens and teens to know that they are not alone in their heart journey. Annette decided to coordinate this program in 2004 after her then 10-year-old son Ryan was scheduled to have open heart surgery in Edmonton. He had no one to talk to of his age; he needed to talk to someone who had gone through this, someone who had survived. It was a terrifying time in his life. Lea gave Annette a list of kids who she thought would love to participate and so began the youth group!
Jody Jeffrey, a young adult with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) who saw the need to mentor heart kids attended Circle of Hearts’ support meetings early on and would chat with the youth that were there. She was honoured to be asked by the Variety Heart Centre to speak to the youth in 2004 at the Building Bridges Cardiology Conference in Winnipeg.
Circle of Hearts sent Jody to a youth conference in Vancouver in 2007. There, she saw how their youth group functioned and saw how that group had grown quite tight and treated each other like family; something she had dreamt of achieving here in Winnipeg. Sadly, in April 2009 Jody Jeffrey suddenly passed away. She was a mere 30 years old. She inspired all of those who knew her, and her smiling, friendly face was contagious, brightening all our events. She left a wonderful legacy behind, giving birth to a healthy beautiful girl named Thera (an anagram for ‘heart’). Jody is dearly missed by all who knew her. One of Jody’s passions was to find a name that would identify the youth group better. She always referred to the youth as ‘Heart Heroes’. Thus, that year, the name Heart Heroes Youth Program was announced at a dinner in honour of her memory.