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Babies receive hats with heart through program

February 17, 2019 GMT
In this Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019 photo, Beth Plaski fits a hat donated by the American Heart Association on her new son Anderson Plaski in Morgantown, W. Va, Briello Plaski is in center, and Scott Plaski, husband is at right. (Ron Rittenhouse/The Dominion Post via AP)
In this Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019 photo, Beth Plaski fits a hat donated by the American Heart Association on her new son Anderson Plaski in Morgantown, W. Va, Briello Plaski is in center, and Scott Plaski, husband is at right. (Ron Rittenhouse/The Dominion Post via AP)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — What better way to celebrate American Heart Month and Valentine’s Day than receiving a gift from the heart?

Rather, for the heart.

The Little Hats, Big Hearts program, sponsored by the American Heart Association, distributes little, red, handmade hats to babies born in February. The effort aims to spark conversations about congenital heart defects in newborn babies.

Recently, Ryan Jerico, development director of AHA, brought 100 hats to donate to the Mon Health Family Birth Center.

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According to the AHA, congenital heart defects are the top killer of newborns with birth defects. The word “congenital” means the defect existed at birth. This happens when vessels around the heart or the heart itself don’t form properly.

Jerico said Little Hats, Big Hearts started in Chicago in 2014. In 2017, The Today Show did a story on the program, and the movement blew up nationwide.

“Last year, West Virginia had a little over 1,300 hats donated. We distributed those to hospitals all over the state. Last year here, we had over 100 hats donated specifically to this hospital,” he said.

About 1,500 hats are being donated in West Virginia this year. They come from volunteers across the state who take time to knit them.

“We want to make awareness of congenital heart defects. One in 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect. Whether it’s a small hole in their heart all the way to a seriously life-threatening condition,” Jerico said.

Jill Buterbaugh, health system director of Women’s Service Line, said the best part about the program is the affiliation with the AHA and getting the word out about the program and heart defects, at birth and throughout life.

“I think getting the awareness out, the Red Hat program causes us to talk about it with our patients. It’s always a very nice gesture to be able to give the families a pretty red hat for the month of February and celebrate for Valentine’s, as well,” Buterbaugh said.

Baby Anderson Plaski was the recipient of a red hat. Anderson’s mom, Beth Plaski, is a nurse at Mon Health Medical Center, and she was happy to be able to bring awareness to heart defects by participating in the program.

“I said absolutely that I would love to participate in this and to bring awareness to anybody that I can about the red hats,” Beth Plaski said. “And now I’m able to do so, not only with my little guy, but through my work.”

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Information from: The Dominion Post, http://www.dominionpost.com