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Zumba fundraiser benefits Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation

From left, Amber Cresser, 12, parents Dawn Cresser

From left, Amber Cresser, 12, parents Dawn Cresser 42, Harry Cresser 43, and brother Jake Cresser 9, hang out at a Zumba fundraiser the family organized for the Children's Cardiomyopathy Foundation. (Jan. 12, 2013) Credit: Steve Smirti

A Valley Stream family helped raised more than $2,500 for the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation at a recent Zumba fundraiser honoring a son they lost to the disease.

Dawn Cresser, 42, and her husband Harry, 43, organized the event at the American Legion hall in Franklin Square Jan. 12 in honor of their 2-month-old son, Harry George Cresser, who died in 2000.

The condition has touched the family numerous times over the years. In 1992 Dawn Cresser lost her father, George Miller, to the adult version of the disease, at the age of 49. Her 12-year-old daughter, Amber, was diagnosed with the pediatric version while still in the womb.

And Dawn Cresser was diagnosed with the disease last year. Before that she had no heart problems and regularly exercised. For the past five years, she has attended a Zumba class at Synergy Fitness in Franklin Square. Her case of cardiomyopathy was mild enough for her to continue doing the class, though she wears a heart monitor at all times.

The Zumba fundraiser was the first Cresser has organized. A few months earlier another member of her class had organized a fundraiser, giving her the idea to do her own.

Synergy Fitness instructors Donna Ippolito and Lora Balsamo led the exercise. Also providing support at the event were members of the Queensboro Motorcycle Club, of which Harry Cresser is a member.

“We all support each other,” he said. “I’m happy they came and helped out.”

As one of the dozen 20-minute sessions of Zumba came to a close, Amber Cresser joined her mom for the next exercise. She and her mom danced, yelled and laughed until the music stopped.

“We see how alive she is, and it’s amazing,” Dawn Cresser said.

Amber’s prognosis is good, according to her physician, Dr. Angela Romano, who works at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park. She has a mild form of the disease, though she cannot engage is high-endurance sports or activities for an extended period of time. Amber regularly receives checkups and her heart is monitored to make sure it’s functioning properly.

After Amber cooled off and played with her friends for a while, she got up in front of the entire group of more than 60 people and gave a speech talking about her condition and how she lives with it.

“Just because I have a heart condition doesn’t mean I’m not a regular kid,” Amber concluded as her best friends, Pamela Martinez, 9, and Christina Chalmers, 11, rushed to give her a big hug.

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