Heart Stories

Please use our Guestbook to share your “Heart Story” with us. We all benefit by sharing our experiences.

September 20, 2016

By Caleb Smith, age 13

I started learning the game of golf when I was just 7 years old. In 2011, I joined the First Tee of Greater Sacramento, which led to a desire for more time out on the golf course. Next, I partnered with my grandpa and joined a Junior-Adult Twilight League that eventually led to some private lessons and more playing time. In 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in the I ♥ Golf clinics, started by the Angels for Hearts Foundation, and that began my quest to bring awareness to the active lifestyle that heart kids can find through the game of golf. 

The I ♥ Golf program not only provided me with a brand new set of clubs, but gave me the opportunity to be taught by golf professionals, meet other golfers, learn proper golf etiquette, and participate with one of my heart healthy siblings, all while having a great time. One of the highlights of my golf career was when my sister and I were able to represent I ♥ Golf at a fundraising tournament at Moorpark Country Club. I was paired with Doug Dickson, one of the instructors for I ♥ Golf. It was only the second time I had ever played a full 18 holes and spending the day alongside Doug allowed me to learn new things and strive to better my own game. I ♥ Golf has increased my love of golf, improved my game, and given me many unique opportunities. 

I think too often people associate heart disease with having a disability, rather than understanding that people with heart disease, especially kids, can live normal active lives. The great thing about golf is that it is a sport that everyone can play, regardless of age, ability, or physical limitations. I can play with other heart kids, my heart healthy older siblings, my uncle who is 47, or my grandfather who is 72, regardless of our varying skill levels. Golf benefits the individual and the family, and challenges both body and mind. That’s what I ♥ Golf is all about. 

The next highlight of my golf career will be in October at Trump National Doral Golf Club. I was recently selected as the second recipient of the Round Of A Lifetime (ROAL) Foundation’s foursome at a world-class resort for people with congenital heart disease. ROAL is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I ♥ Golf was instrumental in preparing me.

September 20, 2016

by “Heart Mom” Anissa Smith

Bringing the game of golf to the world of congenital heart disease is both a practical and tangible way to reach those who are often thought to be limited with regard to sports. I ♥ Golf bridges that gap and makes it a reality for Northern California heart kids. My son Caleb loves golf, and part of that affection was fostered at the I ♥ Golf clinics he attended over the last few years. For kids with congenital heart disease, golf is a “CAN DO” in life’s difficult journey, rather than a “CANNOT”. Every child needs something they can devote themselves to that improves their health and develops character. Golf satisfies those needs and is accomplished in a fun and educational way through the I ♥ Golf program.

The best thing about Caleb’s love of golf is that he can play the game throughout his life with the people he loves. He never says no to an opportunity to be out on the course or spend time on the putting green or driving range. The fact that he can enjoy those things with his grandpa and heart healthy siblings is an added bonus that I know will benefit our family now and in the years to come. I encourage all heart families to consider golf and I believe the I ♥ Golf program would greatly benefit children across the United States.

To see the video of Lil Fili

Most all of our FB family and friends know our Lil Fili, who turns 8 tomorrow, has overcome many physical hurdles in his short life. In the process of learning how to pull together and lean on one another for the love and support that gets us through the hard times we have received blessings that out weigh the trials by multitudes. The first hurdle we ever faced with Lil Fili was his congenital heart defect, which he was born with. As a result we have become part of the Angels For Hearts family. The founder of Angels For Hearts, Kimberly Kaufman has been one of Lil Fili’s biggest rays of sunshine and recognized him for his courage and strength countless times. Even through his cancer she cheered him on and brought her sunshine to brighten up his days. We could never donate on our own an amount that comes close to saying Thank you to everyone at Angels for Hearts for everything you do not only for Lil Fili but for ALL of the beautiful heart babies that get to be apart of this family <3 Lil Fili and I got to talking about what he would like to do for his birthday (i.e. birthday dinner, cake flavor and gifts) Fili has always been all about family and I have always encouraged him to be thankful for everything that our families do for us. So this year we put the two together and if you ask him, or I, what he wants for his birthday, well let me have our lil reporter Sister Fiaau give you the scoop 😉 HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIL FILI!! WE LOVE YOU!! Please no gifts for Fili this year instead here is a link: Donate to Angels for Hearts

Posted by Penina Faleseu on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dear Friends and Family,

Two years ago on February 24, 2011, not only was I blessed with my daughter being given a new heart that worked, but I was given the outpouring of emotional support by many of you. In that moment, I made a public promise to race a triathlon in honor of all the kids with heart defects and to raise financial support for organizations like Angels for Hearts who support them and their families. ¬†Last year I attempted to make good on that promise; however, a week before the triathlon, on my last bike training session, I crashed and broke my elbow. ¬†It wasn’t the pain of the physical injury that bothered me that day. Nor was it my delusional arguing with the orthopedic surgeon that I could still do the triathlon with one arm, or the frustration of knowing I’d watch my hard work atrophy over the next few months while my new workout consisted of only physical therapy. What bothered me to my core was that I hadn’t been able to fulfill my promise to Claire, to Angels for Hearts or for all the kids with a harder fate.

Last fall when I was finally given the green light to train again, the strangest thing happened- I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I still ran, played golf, swam occasionally, skied, discovered Crossfit and even took up rock climbing as a new hobby- but I didn’t train- especially not the bike. Claire even asked at one point if I wanted her training wheels so I’d feel safer on my bike. 🙂

Two weeks ago, Claire got the best birthday present a 5 year old could have…two years after open heart surgery to sew up her swiss cheese heart, the cardiologist finally deemed her heart normal. It was official: the heart rate, size, and structure finally healed. It dawned on me that she was now free to climb Mt Everest or scuba dive if she wanted to, but yet I was afraid of a bike. That same week we attended an annual party by Angels for Hearts where all the kids, from 1 to 18, can show off their warrior spirits, be proud of their scars and just be normal kids. Somewhere between watching Claire admire the scar of a 16 year old girl in an evening gown, and Claire dancing next to a girl on the dance floor who had multiple surgeries and had to take breaks when she turned blue…I realized, I needed to do this triathlon. But for once, it will not be about racing for a PR, it will just be about enjoying the warrior spirit of getting back out there again- just like those kids who live courageously and vivaciously between hospital visits.

So for those of you who enjoy to sweat a little (even if it’ll be your first triathlon), I invite you to come race with me on Sunday May 5th at the Wildflower Triathlon: http://www.tricalifornia.com/index.cfm/WildFlower2013-main.htm

For those of you who have a desire to donate, please do so for Angels for Hearts at http://angelsforhearts.org/

And for those of you who can do neither, just send a prayer of peace for all the little angels and their families who need strength.

With so much gratitude that my cup runneth over…


Dear Friends and Family,

I apologize in advance if you receive duplicate copies of this through email & Facebook and if anyone is left out- please feel free to forward.

About a year and a half ago, many of you were incredibly supportive when my daughter Claire went through open heart surgery. Claire is one of the lucky ones…she only had three holes in her heart, had to endure a five hour open heart surgery, and numerous testing throughout the years. However, when we attend events that celebrate open heart kids, there is almost a pang of guilt that she got off so lucky, and so easy, compared to the others. Claire’s heart defect was fixable- her lifespan is unchanged, and her lifestyle is not compromised. But I have sat in the waiting rooms at pediatric cardiology offices from San Francisco to Sacramento: I have seen parents trying to get their child to stay still so they don’t turn blue; I have talked with parents whose child needs open heart surgery every 5 years for a new pacemaker; or worse yet, I’ve felt the frantic plight of the child who is waiting on the heart transplant list. During that time, I pledged that one day I would fundraise for an organization that specifically works with congenital heart defects. Well…that day has come.

The interesting thing is that Claire’s “easy” surgery was impossible 30 years ago, but due to research, what was once impossible is now standard. In addition to research, organizations like Angels For Hearts offer insurmountable hope to kids who just want to live a normal life. Angels for Hearts specifically works with Stanford, UC Davis and Sutter Children’s hospitals to ensure fiery spirited kids like Claire- can feel normal and proud of their 5 inch scars down their chest. Angels For Hearts provides educational tools for siblings, survival bags for families who stay weeks at a time in Pediatric Intensive Care Units, and provide unique gifts like the flamingo that had Claire hopping up gladly onto the operating table. They track these patients, follow up to see what resources they may need and they offer special celebrations for families to network. Those in Sacramento, may have seen Claire and I featured in the Sacramento Magazine this month for the Angels for Hearts Valentine party. They also annually hold the “When I Grow Up” party every summer because sadly, some of these kids will never have the opportunity to grow up- so it’s a chance for these kids to interact with grown up occupations. While Claire was in intensive care, she fell in love with “Nurse Chelsea” and subsequently is determined to be a nurse one day- this organization is hunting this nurse down for a reunion with Claire this summer.

So as much as I loathe fundraising to family and friends, I have been re-inspired to motivate others to give back to an organization that gives one of the most precious things in life…hope. On May 6, I will race in the Wildflower Olympic Triathlon and am dedicating that race to Angels for Hearts. It is not the longest distance I’ve done, nor the hardest race- but it is done in the acknowledgement of all those kids whose hearts simply can’t even allow them to play on a playground, let alone do a triathlon.

If you would like to donate to this cause, you can do so online at http://angelsforhearts.org/donate or by mail at 3512 Gabilin Way Sacramento, CA 95821.

With the utmost gratitude,


Hello friends, my name is Adina and I am the proud mother of a five year old heart warrior named Alejandro.

Alex as we call him is a unique, spunky, and energetic child with a smile that can light up a room. Even with all of his health issues he fortunately and sometimes unfortunately knows no limits and lives life on the “wild side” as his older brother EJ puts it. He attends kindergarten, swims, and enjoys dancing and playing outdoors. He is quite the character and very expressive, it’s never a boring day with him around.

Alex’s congenital heart defect (chd) was diagnosed when I was about 18 weeks pregnant. (Double outlet single right ventricle with mitral valve abnormalities, pulmonary stenosis, and other complex issues). Alex is a survivor of five open heart surgeries and two other non-heart related surgeries. He had four open heart surgeries (two pulmonary artery bandings, one artial septostomy, and one Glen procedure) and two heart catheterizations before he was six months old. Between his third birthday and today Alex has had two more heart catheterizations and his fifth open heart surgery (the Y fontan procedure). During the recovery of his fifth surgery we almost lost him. The days that followed were heart breaking and uncertain. It was a long road to recovery, however with faith, love, and support, we got through it.

Alex’s journey and fight hasn’t been an easy one, but thanks to research, modern medicine, awareness, and groups like Angel’s for Hearts we have been able to get through the difficulties of having a child with a CHD. Every day with our Alex is a leap of faith and his struggles are far from over. Alex will need other heart repairs and will more than likely need a heart transplant in the future.

Being the parent of a child with a CHD is hard. All we want is a fighting chance. However within the difficulties and heart breaks there are the good days, when we see him run, play, laugh, and enjoy the simple things children enjoy doing that makes it all worthwhile. The support our family has received from Angel’s for Hearts has been essential to helping us through our journey. I really don’t know where we would be without that support system. Being a part of events that Angel’s for Hearts has hosted such as “When I Grow Up” has given us hope, an opportunity to connect and interact with other families going through the same struggles. Because the truth is no matter how much friends and family love you, sometimes they just can’t understand. Angel’s for Hearts provides our family and both of my sons (Alex, our heart child and our ten year old heart healthy son EJ) the opportunity of enjoying fun family activities and events together. That helps them see a positive side to being a heart family. The bonds that groups like Angel’s for Hearts provide last a lifetime and motivates CHD children that become adults to help pave the way for the road new heart families will walk, so that their journey may be a little easier.

Thanks to supporters like you who make donations to Angel’s for Hearts or sponsor events, they can continue to help and touch the lives of heart families like ours.

Thank you!


Adina Flores