Colton Berlin of Mayfield is 12 and was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and had surgery when he was just a few days old. Now 12, he likes to golf, wakeboard and play with his dogs.
On Saturday, January 20, Colton was one of 13 children who were honored during halftime of the UAlbany men’s basketball game vs. Bryant at the UAlbany Broadview Center, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.
The children are from the American Heart Association’s Cardiac Kids 518 group, and The Melodies Center for Childhood Cancer & Blood Disorders at the Bernard & Millie Duker Children’s Hospital.
A portion of the ticket sales to this game benefitted the American Heart Association Cardiac Kids program, of which Colton is a member, and The Melodies Center. The UAlbany team created T-shirts for the kids and families with their names on them, and players wore them during practice. The kids also enjoyed dinner with the team, shot hoops with the team courtside, and were honored during halftime. The Warren & Denyse Mackey Foundation presented checks to the organizations.
Denyse Mackey, founder of the Warren & Denyse Mackey Foundation, organized “Play Your Heart Out” as a way to raise awareness of programs that support children with chronic illnesses related to heart, cancer and sickle cell.
“This is our third year of Play Your Heart Out, and we are expanding to assist more families facing chronic illnesses in their children,” Mackey said. “We are focused on equitable health, and supporting research and families helps us make better health available to more people.”
“The partnership with our Men’s Basketball Program and the Mackey Foundation has impacted so many young people within the capital region with our work within the community, at our youth camps and for our student-athletes as a whole. But today’s effort is truly amazing as we have a chance to give strength and support to a group of young people from the Melodies Center and the Cardiac Kids that all have an amazing spirit as they fight their individual battles,” said Dwayne Killings, head coach, the UAlbany Men’s Basketball Team. “During our game vs Bryant we hope to provide much joy and entertainment as they join our team this Saturday evening’s game.”
“One in 120 children is born with a congenital heart defect, the leading birth defect,” said Kaweeda Adams, chair of the board of directors of the American Heart Association in the Capital Region. “When families come together at the game, they are able to share information and support. The money raised at the game will also help fund the research to make their lives better. Denyse keeps her husband’s legacy alive by supporting kids with heart disease.”
“We are incredibly thankful for the Warren & Denyse Mackey Foundation organizing this event, and the UAlbany Men’s Basketball team for inviting our Melodies Center patients and families to the game,” said Mary Beth Nichols, Child Life Specialist for the Melodies Center. “This awesome experience will allow them to forget about their disease, and focus on having fun and being a kid, which is invaluable! Thank you for making our kids smile.”