Hey Heidi: What's the story behind the hearts in Webster Groves?

If you've driven through Webster Groves you might have notice several "hearts" hanging on trees. Bradley Crecelius did and he sent me an email wanting to know the story behind them so here's what I found out.

On a stretch of South Gore in Webster Groves is a rather heartwarming sight.  Kindness pinned to poles and tacked to trees.
 
"They're one of a kind, super unique.  When we started this project we would tell everyone that every heart is a beautiful heart so even the hearts that are kind of lopsided or lumpy," explains Becky Ortyl.
 
But the purpose of these painted pieces of plywood is way more than a decoration.
 
Becky gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on March 10th in 2011.
 
"He spent his entire life at St. Louis Children's Hospital in the cardiac intensive care unit." 
 
15 precious months.
 
"There were times when the doctors would say we don't know how we're going to get through this, we're kind of backed into a corner here and the next day he'd wake up fighting, strong, smiling, sucking his thumb so really quickly he became our mighty oaks," she explains.
 
Oakes was born with a congenital heart defect and passed in June of 2012 and when he did neighbors did something she'll never forget.
 
"They tied red ribbons on all the trees to the church, it was so sweet and it meant the world to us and I told my neighbor Rebecca I'm going to be heartbroken when those red ribbons come down."
 
So when the ribbons came down red hearts slowly went up.
 
She and one of those neighbors decided to sell them as as a fundraiser for Might Oakes Heart Foundation, the not-for-profit Becky and her husband founded to help families like theirs.
 
"We have mailed them from coast to coast," she points out.
 
She now has a small army helping her hand paint them and spread the love.  A love that is as strong as a mighty oak.
 
"One of the doctors shared with us he believed Oakes lived as long as he did because we were there every day giving him a reason to fight.  It was so healing to hear that maybe just being there helped, and just loving on him helped, and I always think of that when we're awarding grants.  I just think if I can pay this utility and pay this mortgage and give that mom some peace of mind so she can stand at that bedside and snuggle that baby and take care of that little kid and give that kid every reason to fight, then I'm ok."
 


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