By RICK HAYES
BLUFORD — —
Preschool children at Bluford used Valentine's Day to show a little love for one of their classmates.
Five-year-old Mariah Anderson, who has had heart problems since birth, is scheduled for surgery later this month to remove a tumor and repair her pulmonary valve. While the community held a fundraiser late last year to help the family with medical bills, Thursday's event was a fun-filled day for Mariah and her friends since it was her final day in school.
Classmates in the preschool held a balloon launch on the west side of Bluford Grade School, heard a presentation about a healthy heart, made handmade Valentine's cards for sick children at Cardinal-Glennon Hospital, and then were treated to heart-shaped cookies.
"She's been in our class since she turned 3. She's a smart, terrific kid and a good friend to her friends. She's been out a lot since the family is getting ready for her surgery and to keep her healthy. Her mom had the idea to do something special, we thought it was a good idea, and with it being Valentine's Day, we're going to have a lot of fun," said Mariah's teacher Angie Waggoner.
The class also heard a presentation from Jenna Kidd of Mended Little Hearts, a local support group for children with congenital heart disease. Kidd said Thursday was Congenital Heart Defective Awareness Day, although the awareness week is held Feb. 7 through 14.
"Mariah is one of our heart heroes," Kidd said after the presentation. "We provide emotional support for her family. We just recently learned that Walgreens has chosen our group to receive a community grant. With those funds, we will try to put together care packages for the families who have children undergoing medical treatment."
There are 66 Mended Hearts chapters nationwide, and there are about 20 children from Jefferson County whose parents have been given support by the organization.
Mariah's mother, Missy, reported the family will be leaving on Feb. 24 for Massachusetts, Mariah's heart cath will be performed on the 26th and her brain tumor removal surgery will be held on Feb. 28 at Boston Children's Hospital.
"She's doing real good. She's anxious, but she is also asking a lot questions that 5-year-olds don't understand," she said.
Mariah is the youngest of three children in the family. Her siblings are 15-year-old brother Nicholas and 12-year-old sister Macy. The family is expected to incur major medical and transportation expenses, especially since her father Brian works at Continental Tire, and Missy is employed at CVS. Both will have to miss a considerable amount of time from their employment during Mariah's recovery process.