Hearts for Sammy celebrates Valentine’s Day, raises funds for heart defects

Senior Nancy Brito collaborated with the Women’s Leadership Institute to host the third annual Hearts for Sammy Fundraiser from Feb. 11-14. All donations benefited the Children’s HeartLink Foundation.

Brito said she started the fundraiser after transferring to Geneseo. During her freshman year at Buffalo State College, Brito’s best friend was pregnant with a baby boy named Sammy. Doctors discovered that Sammy had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a heart defect preventing the left side of the heart from developing fully.

According to Brito, Sammy was born in January of 2011, had surgery and passed away due to heart complications. During this devastating tragedy, Brito said she confided in members of the Women’s Leadership Institute. She said the organization’s founder, Educational Opportunity Program counselor Patricia Gonzalez, and members wanted to support her.

“This event in my life was personal and important to me and because of [the Women’s Leadership Institute’s] help, I was able to branch out,” Brito said

From then on, Brito said she made a commitment to fundraising for Children’s HeartLink, a nonprofit that raises money for children with heart defects, in order to commemorate Sammy.

Brito created Hearts for Sammy during her sophomore year, selling cups, teddy bears, snow globes, glass roses, pins and Children’s HeartLink bracelets just in time for Valentine’s Day. During the first year, Brito said she raised about $500, and in 2012 she said she raised about $600.

According to Brito, SUNY Oneonta and Rochester General Hospital are hosting their own versions of Hearts for Sammy. Sophomore Adrienne Tucker instated the Rochester General Hospital version.

Brito has high hopes for the fundraiser’s future, adding that she hopes she sees Hearts for Sammy continue after she leaves Geneseo.

“This fundraiser is for Sammy’s memory, and also for empowering others,” Brito said.