By Isaiah Negron
Harboring Hearts is a nonprofit organization providing support and resources for heart patients and their families that travel to New York City for lifesaving medical treatment. The organization helps families secure a home-like haven as they attend to their loved ones who are dealing with serious cardiac disease. They also provide resources to meet other unmet needs for the patients and families.
Co-founders Michelle Javian and Yuki Kotani met in 2008 and discovered their fathers had both undergone heart transplants performed by the same surgeon, Dr. Naka Yoshifumi, at New York Presbyterian Hospital. During their fathers’ hospitalizations, both spent countless hours travelling back and forth to and from the hospital. They saw how many families of other heart patients spent days in the hospital, as some were hundreds of miles from home and could not afford to pay for a hotel. “I did not understand what it was like until it happened to my family,” Javian says. “Our goal is to help those families. ”
In 2009, they founded Harboring Hearts. Javian and Kotani realized that they were lucky because, unlike many caregivers, they had a place to go home to each night. “It’s important to collaborate,” Javian explains. “We want to help families from all over the world that travel to New York for treatment. Knowing that our work is positively impacting families allows me to find inspiration in each day.” In three years, Harboring Hearts has grown from a staff of two part-time, unpaid workers to a full-time staff of four.
Harboring Hearts has recently launched a new Community Event Program. The events will provide patients and their families with a day of relief from the onslaught of difficult medical routines as well as preventive and educational programs on heart disease awareness. This past Valentine’s Day, over 500 pediatric patients and their caregivers from The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore and Mount Sinai Hospital were treated to a day of games, music, nutritious food and arts and crafts. Javian and her team created a lively and carefree atmosphere for patients and their families. Guests included Sharon Bush and ABT Ballerina Skylar Brandt. Executive Vice President Deirdre Lombardi says, “We love being able to help children going through this extremely hard time. Seeing the happiness on their faces makes it all worth it.”
This spring, the organization will hold its 2nd Annual Spring Soiree at the Rubin Museum of Art, its major fundraiser of the year. The funds raised will support the expansion of existing programs and launch of new ones. Javian says, “We want to continue to help as many families as possible receive the love and support they need.” •