Mend A Heart celebrates 16 years

When Clarendon Hills mother Bridget O'Meara was pregnant with her son Liam, doctors learned the left side of her baby's heart wasn't developing. It was a condition called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or HLHS. At 1 week old, Liam underwent his first open heart surgery to repair the ventricle in his heart, followed by another surgery one month later and his third at 2 years of age.

Now, 16 years later, Liam is a thriving sophomore at Nazareth Academy. To celebrate this milestone as well as the 16th anniversary of Mend A Heart Foundation, the nonprofit O'Meara and husband Brian founded to raise funds for congenital heart defect research, the organization will celebrate its Sweet Sixteen at its annual Heartfest gala at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb 4, at the Hyatt Lodge Oak Brook.

"Liam's doing very well medically," O'Meara said. "He plays trumpet in the Naz marching band, joined their new bowling team, does taekwondo, is involved in several school clubs and plays.

"Every day is truly a gift," she added. "We try to always remember that and not get caught up in the daily grind rat race."

This year, Mend A Heart has pledged $200,000 to fund a Columbia University Irving Medical Center study focusing on newborns diagnosed with single ventricle congenital heart disease. According to O'Meara, the organization also made a $30,000 contribution last month to Camp Odayin, the only camp in the Midwest for kids living with heart defects, as well as a $20,500 donation to Young Hearts for Life, an organization that conducts cardiac screenings for high school students.

What is more staggering is that, to date, Mend A Heart has raised more than $1 million for causes that support its mission - and the 501(c)3 is run solely by volunteers.

"Not every family we've met along the way has been as fortunate as Brian and I," said O'Meara. "We literally sat in waiting rooms with other heart families whose babies weren't as fortunate as ours. We felt compelled to give back to the cardiac teams that saved our son's life as well as the pediatric cardiac teams across the country."

More than 250 people are expected to attend Heartfest 2023. Guests, who are encouraged to don red attire, will enjoy live music and dinner as well as an auction and raffles. To purchase tickets, which are $175 per person, please visit

Infant Welfare to Light Up The Night

The Clarendon Hills Chapter of the Infant Welfare Society's largest fundraiser, "Light Up The Night," supporting the Angel Harvey Family Health Center of the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago, will take on a Hollywood-chic game night theme this year.

More than 300 guests are expected to hit the red carpet at The Drake Oak Brook at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Jan 27, to help raise vital funds for the center, which offers health care services and education to underserved Chicago families.

Following dinner and a live auction, attendees will be encouraged to partake in exciting games including cards, dice and others or dance the night way.

While the event is sold out, those wishing to be placed on a wait list can visit

- Alexis Braden of Hinsdale is

the paper's society columnist.

Readers can email her

at [email protected].