Hunter Taylor, like you and I, was born with a heart. Obviously - you can't live without one. But his heart was different. Immediately upon entering this world, it was discovered that he suffered from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome leading to his first of three open heart surgeries at four days old. This helpless newborn suffered more than most of us suffer in a lifetime while also battling a hearing impairment, a missing thymus gland, and bladder and spine defects.
But I noticed something so strange about this little guy, who is now 6-years-old - his heart is bigger than anyone I know.
I met Hunter in January at a Radiothon that was raising money for the MUSC Children's Hospital. He was a cute little kid with blonde hair and a smile that was totally contagious. I specifically remember noticing that he was tiny for a 6-year-old, but didn't really ask questions. His sense of humor was on point. Can you imagine a 6-year-old live on the radio and when asked any type of question his response remained the same, bold, and confident "underpants" followed by his unique laugh? I'm telling you, this kid could have a talk show.
I'm not sure what fascinated me about Hunter more, the fact that he had been through so much at such a young age or that upon meeting me he was glued to my iPhone 6 Plus and knew how to use it better than I did. Regardless, I knew he was special but I had no clue how much this little boy would completely change my world.
Dance Marathon 2015
I was honored to serve as the Recruitment Chair for a fundraising event called Dance Marathon. It is sponsored by Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and allows students to raise money for the CMNH nearest them. For the College of Charleston, ours was MUSC Children's Hospital, where Hunter was treated.
At the event, we always invite patients and their families to join us to see our year-long effort come to fruition. It's my favorite part. The families are touched, the patients are excited, and the participants really get to see first-hand what their fundraising is doing on a daily basis.
Of course, Hunter was there and so was his little sister Emma. Hunter and I bonded, and not in a little kid kind of way. I felt like he was my friend.
Hunter accompanied me on stage and was the life of the party. Everyone knew him after a few appearances up there telling his jokes. He and Emma sang us songs, too. We raised over $55,000 and gave 100% of it to the Children's Hospital. I felt such a deep connection to his family and his story after that 12-hour day that I knew my work for the hospital and for Hunter was nowhere near over, even if Dance Marathon was. Luckily, I was right.
2015 South Carolina Champion Child
Hunter was selected to represent Children's Miracle Network Hospital as their 2015 South Carolina Champion Child. His launch party was incredible and I was so excited to be a part of it. Hunter will serve as the advocate for fundraisers on the local, state, and national level. I personally can't think of anyone who would do a better job than this upbeat, spunky kid. My graduation was coming up and I knew my visits with Hunter would start to be few and far between.
I had the opportunity to talk with one of Hunter's doctors at the party. About a week or two prior, Hunter broke his arm. In a non morbid way, we were chuckling. Although Hunter has dealt with such serious health issues, it was almost refreshing to see him break his arm just like any other kid. Hunter is living his life just like he should be - only now he gets to be recognized for beating the odds.
Hunter is a miracle - to his family, his friends, his doctors, and to me.
When I met Hunter, I was so caught up in the formality of charity - the planning, the execution, the money, etc. Admittedly, I would occasionally lose sight of the point. I would not focus on what the planning and the money was doing when it was all said and done... until i met Hunter. I was able to see how giving up a night out with friends, turning off the television, and cutting out that Saturday nap could contribute to something larger than any one individual.
Hunter is now on a trip with the other CMNH Champion Children that brought him and his family to DC. Today, we hung out at the International Spy Museum and it was one of the best days since I moved. Hunter is such a positive, upbeat individual who has never met a stranger. He's growing up and is entering his boy stage - quickly becoming infatuated with farts and bugs.
Hunter is a miracle child. Without MUSC Children's Hospital and all that they do, I may not have been able to meet him or his family. I would have missed out on one of the greatest memories that I cherish. Don't lose sight of what matters in life. People like Hunter need people like you. If you find a cause that you care about, you'll find miracles.