When Shay Dschaak was five days old, she had her first of many surgeries at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.
During the first year of her life, she spent several months hospitalized for various heart procedures. Now, the 2-year-old is considered “repaired,” her mom, Sarah Dschaak, said. “It was a crazy start, but she is the most feisty, little red-headed girl. She is so full of life,” she said.
And Sarah is so thankful. That’s why she, her family and friends will travel nearly 12 hours from their North Dakota town to Minneapolis for the HeartBeat 5000 on June 23.
“I decided this is a great thing, and it’s one of the ways I can give back to Children’s after what they did for my family,” Sarah said.
In its tenth year, the HeartBeat 5000, held at Father Hennepin Park in Minneapolis, will bring together patients, families, staff and the community to celebrate the daily miracles at Children’s. Since its development, the event has raised more than $1.4 million for the hospital’s cardiovascular program and Family Needs Fund.
The event has grown considerably during the last few years. In 2010, 47 teams participated and last year, there were 80. So far this year, 99 teams have registered.
Sarah’s team, RedHeaded Hearts, has raised about $7,000 to date. She organized a Cinco de Mayo party, complete with bingo games and a live auction, which generated about $6,000. Her team has also raised money through their website.
“If it wasn’t for Children’s, we wouldn’t have Shay,” Dschaak said. “[Participating in HeartBeat] is the least I can do for what they did for Shay.”
Team Julia’s Beat will make their fifth appearance at the race. The team draws big numbers. In 2010, they topped all teams with about 80 members and last year, they raised the most money — approximately $5,400.
Team captain and proud mom Kelly Olejar hopes for another strong team showing this year.
“Everyone has grown to love it. It doesn’t have to affect them directly,” she said.
Kelly’s oldest daughter, Julia, was born with a heart defect. At seven weeks, she had surgery and ended up spending the entire summer in the hospital due to complications.
Julia, now a healthy 5-year-old and the star on the team, participates in the event. “She calls it the big walk,” Kelly said “She’s kind of getting it that it’s about her.”
Kelly also tries to give back through volunteering at the hospital and helping other families. “We count our blessings,” she said. “I don’t know big people in big places, but I can do something to give back.”
Returning for the second time to the HeartBeat 5000 is Moms on the Run, a running program for women throughout the Twin Cities.
Last year, an estimated 40 people affiliated with Moms on the Run participated in the race. Founder and CEO Karissa Johnson says she expects a bigger turnout this year.
The group participates in one race event every month, Karissa said. The family-friendly environment, central location and beautiful urban setting at the HeartBeat 5000 are among its highlights, she said.
“We’re always looking for an event with a good cause to support,” she said. “I just felt that children’s health was something we could all rally around.”
Want to get involved? Sign up today! Join a team, start your own or run as an individual! For more information, click here.