Little Hats, Big Hearts

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

By: Ashmar Mandou

According to the American Heart Association, nearly 40,000 children across the U.S. are born with a congenital heart defect, a portion of the heart that faces structural problems present at birth. For many parents it is a challenging moment to endure when their child is among those affected by a heart defect and more often than not parents are in search of additional support. And with that in mind, Anne Schullo, member of the American Heart Association (AHA) launched the Little Hats, Big Heart Project three years ago in order to raise awareness of children affected by heart defect and to develop a system of support for parents in dire need of emotional help. “It is a heartbreaking time for parents to see their child ill, so Little Hats, Big Hearts is here to remind parents that they are not alone in this battle and to remind the community of the importance of beginning a dialogue about heart disease,” said Schullo, who founded the project in memory of her friend whom she lost at the age of 25 due to heart disease. “At that age, you don’t think about heart disease. You don’t think about sickness. We didn’t. So when I lost my friend at such a young age that experience prompted me to learn more about heart disease and the need to create something that would help a larger community.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Throughout the month of February, hospitals across the country including 30 hospitals in the Chicagoland area will be given red hats in support of the AHA’s Little Hats, Big Hearts project. AHA volunteers spend hours a day knitting and crocheting dozens of hats in order to raise awareness of heart disease, the number one killer of Americans, and congenital heart defects, the most common type of birth defect in the country. For AHA volunteer Sue Hipple this project is bittersweet. Thirty-two years ago, Hipple gave birth to her son whom she named Timothy on June 16th, 1983. “He was full of personality,” said Hipple. “He was a firecracker. We really got a sense of who he was a few weeks after his birth. He was strong and vibrant that everyone took notice,” said Hipple. Sadly, on August 24th, 1983 Timothy passed from a congenital heart defect. “Back then, we didn’t have the technologies we do now. There was only so much that could have been done for Timothy. But we kept hope and faith and we were with him after every surgery. When he passed we were so heartbroken, but as Christians we had to find the purpose so when Little Hats, Big Hearts project was created I took that as an opportunity to share Timothy’s story and create hats in his honor.”

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

In the first year of Little Hats, Big Hearts Project, 300 hats were distributed to nine hospitals. The second year, volunteers from all 50 states and six countries donated more than 15,000 hats, which were distributed to nearly 20 hospitals in the Chicago area. Now in the third year, Little Hats, Big Hearts has expanded to more than 300 hospitals across the country. “This truly is an amazing moment to see everyone come together for one issue which is heart disease and to see how this project is reaching more families each year,” said Schullo.

Last year, Cristina Newton received a hat for her daughter who was born with a heart defect. Newton, whose family has a history of heart disease, was optimistic in her daughter’s recovery. “Luckily, my daughter was born with a mild heart defect, although still scary, her doctors and nurses worked around the clock to help in my daughter’s recovery,” said Newton, who currently is pursuing a degree in Nursing at Oakton Community College. “Because heart disease is something that runs in my family it was a topic that was always discussed. I am so grateful for a program like Little Hats, Big Hearts that brings people together for an important cause.” This month, Newton’s daughter turns 1 year-old. If you would like to learn more about the program or to volunteer, visit “We hope next year we are able to reach even more families across the country,” said Schullo.

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