Hunter Peters (left) and Zach Tomomitsu, both who were born with half a heart, have thrived as members of the Minneiska Ski Team in Whitewater. The team held a “Heart Heroes” fundraising show, in honor of the boys, Aug. 18 to raise money for the American Heart Association. In addition to raising awareness of the No. 1 killer in the nation, the event also helped to give a voice to congenital heart defects.

By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

They may have each been born with half a heart, but two Whitewater boys have been giving a full-hearted effort toward moving beyond their congenital defects.

Zach Tomomitsu, 8, and Hunter Peters, 10, have been excelling in the Minneiska Water Ski Team’s shows throughout the season.

But the budding athletes have more than their love of the water in common. Zach and Hunter were born with a condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare condition that correlates to a baby’s heart not developing properly while in uetero.

Both boys have gone through their share of surgeries in recent years and are coming close to living as normal of lives as possible.

Hunter’s cousin, Lauren Peters, is also a member of the team and has endured several heart surgeries. She currently lives with a heart defibrillator.

Zach’s mom, Tammy Tomomitsu, said modern research from such organizations as the American Heart Association have not only made it possible for children such as Zach to enjoy a quality of life – it has given them the opportunity to simply live.

Until recently, children born with a condition such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome had a grim prognosis.

Fittingly, the 100 members of this year’s Minneiska Water Ski Team devoted last weekend’s show to the American Heart Association.

Donations collected the day of the show totaled $1,667 – more than triple of what the team had anticipated collecting from the fundraiser. Tammy said more donations are coming in as people come through on pledges made in advance of the show.

“It turned out to be a terrific evening,” Tammy said. “We had some amazing, generous hearts out there, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Members of the Minneiska Water Ski Team have, in the past, held fundraisers for specific causes.

With three team members directly affected by a heart condition, putting the American Heart Association in the spotlight was a logical conclusion during this year’s planning, Tammy said. Several representatives from the organization were at Saturday’s event.

“There are so many people who are affected by heart disease, in one way or other, so I think this hit close to home,” she said.

The American Heart Association reportedly spent $7.94 million in 2011 on research studies focusing on children’s heart disease. The figure is second only to the research the federal government allocates toward pediatric cardiac research.

By all accounts, Tammy said Saturday’s show was triumphant in numerous ways. Several of the 40 skiers had personal bests with their performances – a feat that resulted in some higher pledges from donors – and the ideal weather punctuated the evening.

The Minneiska Water Ski Team has one final performance of the summer over Labor Day weekend.

“It’s been a great season,” Tammy said. “This really is a true family affair, where grandparents and children are involved in some way. Everybody is a part of it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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