And Finally: Spunky superheroes spread heart defect awareness

Two young "super friends" want the public to know about a fun-run event Saturday to raise awareness about birth defects. Oct. 14, 2015

(WBIR - KNOXVILLE) Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, and two little ones in Knoxville are spreading awareness of congenital heart defects.

Nine-year-old Maddie and 7-year-old Eliajah have been super-friends for most of their lives.

Wednesday morning, Eliajah's mom brought him to Knoxville's Tyson Park, where Maddie was waiting for him with a surprise.

"Look what I got you!" Maddie exclaimed, clasping a shiny blue superhero cape in her hand. "You want to wear your cape?"

The daring duo donned capes of courage, thanks to the Omaha, Neb.-based non-profit organization Heart Heroes, which gives superhero capes to kids born with a congenital heart defect (CHD).

"She had heart surgery when she was 11 days old," Maddie's mom Danielle Guerra said, recounting her daughter's difficulties due to a congenital heart defect. "It's been just a rollercoaster for us her whole life."

Eliajah was also born with a CHD.

"Eliajah spent six months in Children's NICU," his mom Christy Vaught said. "Two weeks out of those six months he had to travel by jet to Vanderbilt, to have open heart surgery."

The two families will be at Alcoa's Springbrook Park Saturday morning, for the Superhero Heart Run.

The event will raise awareness for CHD and money for two non-profit organizations: Heart Heroes and Knoxville-based Saving Little Hearts. The latter provides assistance to families with babies diagnosed with CHD.

"To participate in this event and to be able to help spread awareness about two wonderful organizations - Saving Little Hearts and Heart Heroes - they've really done so much for us," Guerra said, "it's just an honor to be able to bring awareness to both of them because they have really helped a lot of children with congenital heart defects."

Both moms said their kids are constantly overcoming medical obstacles.

"It's all she's ever known: the constant doctors' appointments, the constant new medical issues, but she embraces them," Guerra said. "She has such an immense amount of love for life and for people, and her spirit is just extremely contagious."

That was evident at Tyson Park as Maddie and Eliajah scampered around the playground, their capes blowing in their wake.

"Up, up and away!" Maddie shouted gleefully. "You're Super Eliajah! And I'm your sidekick, Super Girl!"

The tiny twosome is asking for the public's support Saturday.

"It's Knoxville's first annual Superhero Heart Run, and we would like as many people to come out as possible," Maddie said.

Although born with defects, these spunky superheroes' hearts are pure gold.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CHDs are the most common types of birth defects.

Registration for the Superhero Heart Run at Alcoa's Springbrook Park is 8:30 a.m., and the 2K/5K Run/Walk begins at 10 a.m.

Registration is available now online or on the day of the event. It's $25 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and younger. Participants are encouraged to suit up in superhero gear!


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