CHF LogoWhen Brycen Principe was born, his parents were overjoyed. But devastating news soon turned their excitement into shock, disbelief — and fear. Tiny Brycen had a heart defect.

“All I can remember thinking is ‘my baby is going to die,’” said his mom, Jessica.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation have joined forces to stop congenital heart defects and save lives — and help spare more parents the nightmare the Principes experienced. The two-year collaboration will jointly commit at least $2.5 million over the next two years to support innovative research projects on congenital heart defects.

About 40,000 children are born with a heart defect in the United States each year.

The Children’s Heart Foundation is a national nonprofit with 15 chapters in the United States. “Our mission is to fund the most promising research to advance the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of congenital heart defects,” said William Foley, the organization’s executive director.

The AHA will coordinate the peer-review of research proposals on congenital heart defects and give CHF a ranked list of worthy applications. CHF will choose those that best fit its mission, and the AHA will distribute funds to the awardee’s institution and monitor progress.

The number of research proposals that will be funded will depend solely on the merit of the research proposal, Foley said.

The AHA and CHF will also collaborate on a program to support parents of children with congenital heart defects. Sharing information and emotional support can be enormously helpful to parents dealing with their child’s diagnosis.

“We’ve worked hard for two years to build this relationship and will evaluate the results over the next two years,” Foley said. “We’d love it if it succeeds and lasts for the next 20 years.”

If that happens, there may be fewer children with heart defects — and fewer families like the Principes rocked by a devastating diagnosis.

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