A 10-year-old girl dancing aimlessly, jumping in her parents’ arms and playing with other kids is hardly unusual.
But for Kaylee Paperin of East Meadow, it’s a little extra special.
Soon after she was born in 2000, doctors found that her heart was five times bigger than what it was supposed to be, the result of two congenital heart defects. She underwent a pair of surgeries, at 6 weeks old and 3 years old, and is now completely healthy.
“I wasn’t realizing how severe it was, and I guess that was a good thing,” said Kaylee’s mother, Dawn Paperin. ”But afterwards when it did sink it, we realized how blessed and lucky we are and [thank] God for every day she is here.”
In an effort to help others, Kaylee and her parents have become active members in the American Heart Association. They raise money through their organization, Kaylee’s Heart, which they started in 2008. On Saturday they held a fundraising event at the Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale for heart disease, raising about $1,000. They’ll be back in action Sept. 25 at the Long Island Heart Walk and 5k Run at Jones Beach, an event organized by the Long Island chapter of the American Heart Association. Kaylee has been named the ambassador for this year’s event.
“I was really excited when I heard I was the ambassador,” she said. “I really enjoy being part of something that is so important that helps raise funds and brings awareness to heart disease.”
Last year the Paperin family's efforts brought 65 people to the walk, and they hope to increase that number this year. They say the driving force to help continues to be what could have been.
“We took the chance [on doing the surgeries] and she’s here now, she’s a beautiful 10-year-old-girl and she’s perfectly healthy,” said her father, Alan Paperin. “I think she’s overly active for a 10-year-old girl, so I think the doctor did too good of a job with her.”
Photo: Kaylee Paperin and her father, Alan, held a fundraiser Saturday at the Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale, and raised nearly $1,000 for the American Heart Association. (Aug. 6, 2011)