Walking together

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Annual heart defect event brings families together

By John Whitlock

Terry Mitchell sat with her son Quintin Mitchell on her lap and listened to the music Saturday at the sixth-annual Walk for Awareness of Congenital Heart Defects in Owenton.
When asked her son’s name, Mitchell’s response triggered a slight, relieved smile.
“He’s Quintin but he’s not one of the sick kids,” Mitchell said.
Along with hundreds of others, Mitchell and her family turned out to help raise awareness of the impact CHD can have and to show their support for parents and children who face the pain and trauma of the condition.
As close to 400 people mingled inside the First Baptist Church Family Life Center, kids laughed and played while the adults talked and visited some of the vendors who agreed to take part.
“It’s so good to see all these kids running around playing together — the ones who have been sick,” Katie Columbia, one of the primary organizers of the event, said. “That really touches you when you see all these kids just having fun.”
The event was born out of Columbia’s own trauma. Her son, Isaiah, was born with a CHD and has faced three major surgeries in his young life.
Although many of the families going through the ordeal of a child with CHD stay in touch throughout the year, Columbia said the event helps everyone who takes part.
“We had a really good turnout, just great,”  Columbia said. “We see some of the same faces year after year and that’s good.”
The money raised from the CHD Recognition Walk helps support  the Kentucky Children’s Hospital/Cardiology Division at the University of Kentucky. The walkers join teams named after victims of CHD.
Even with a tough economy, Columbia said she is excited about $11,500 in donations raised this year.
“We still have some teams that haven’t turned in their money yet and we still have hearts for sale ...,” Columbia said. “We should have a final amount maybe by the end of March, but I’m very pleased with that amount.”
The walk is sponsored by God’s Special Little Hearts and the Owen County Extension Homemakers.
As a token of the group’s gratitude for Columbia’s work, the groups presented her and her family with a special mural of a red heart.
“I try not to cry in front of people but I love seeing the kids run and play,” Columbia said. “That’s when it really hits home.”
Columbia said her faith helps keep her strong and dedicated to the cause.
“I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer,” Columbia said. “That’s what keeps many of us strong.”