By kalea hall
After raising more than $4,000 for this year’s Congenital Heart Walk, Ashley Machel of Boardman has only one thought for next year’s walk: Aim for even more.
Machel’s son, 3-year-old Caleb Machel, who was born with a heart defect, is her driving force to keep raising more dollars for the Children’s Heart Foundation.
At 7 p.m. Sunday, The Viper Room on Salt Springs Road in Youngstown will be helping her raise funds with a Phoenix Rising concert and auction. All of the tips the bartenders receive as well as a percentage of the sales generated that night also will be donated to Team Caleb for the walk.
“It’s absolutely amazing to have all the support we do,” said Machel, a single mom.
Machel, 24, and the rest of Team Caleb will be walking for the first time in the Congenital Heart Walk hosted in Alison Park, Pa., on June 22. Through a variety of fundraisers and raffles, Machel was able to raise $4,094 for Team Caleb to donate to the Children’s Heart Foundation, which supports research for diagnosis, treatment and prevention of congenital heart defects.
Next year, Machel hopes to raise $7,000 to $8,000 through events like the one taking place at The Viper Room.
“When I read Caleb’s story, I thought it was inspiring,” said Alyssa Benner, who does media relations for The Viper Room. “We wanted to have a community event.”
Raising money for congenital heart disease is something Caleb enjoys, especially the bumper stickers with his picture on them and the Team Caleb slogan “Courage for Caleb.”
“He is always saying, ‘Courage for Caleb,’” Machel said.
The energetic little boy also loves the polka-dance fundraisers they have put on in the past.
Caleb was born with truncus arteriosus, a rare heart defect in which only one large blood vessel leads out of the heart, instead of the normal two, according to Mayo Clinic. Also, the aorta and pulmonary artery are not separated as they should be. This causes oxygen-poor blood that should go to the lungs and oxygen-rich blood that should go to the rest of the body to mix together.
Dr. Victor Morell, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, is Caleb’s surgeon. Dr. Morell said it is important to fix the heart defect Caleb has so the child’s growth is not affected.
“If they don’t fix it, then they don’t do well because their lungs are wet,” Morell said. “Then they are focused more on breathing rather than growing.”
Caleb has had three open-heart surgeries and one heart catheterization. His first surgery, which connected his pulmonary artery to his heart through an artificial valve, was performed when he was just 6 days old. His most recent open-heart surgery was Feb. 13. After just two days of recovery, Caleb was able to go home. Caleb will require additional surgeries in the future to replace the valve as he grows.
“He is a tough kid, and he has done well,” Dr. Morell said.
Although this is her first time for the heart walk, Machel is excited to meet and talk with other families who have children with heart defects.
“They are so resilient,” she said. “The kids make it look so easy.”
Machel is planning another event to raise money for the Children’s Heart Foundation called Caleb’s Crusiers. The motorcycle run will take place at 11 a.m. June 23 at Springfield Elementary School.
For more information on the events or about Caleb, visit facebook.com/courageforcaleb.