The Hudson Gateway Association of REALTORS® (HGAR) is sponsoring an exciting “Just a Wish Away” Cocktail Party to benefit Make-A-Wish® Hudson Valley on Thursday, September 18, from 6 – 10 p.m. at the Clubhouse at Patriot Hills in Stony Point. Make-A-Wish® Hudson Valley, a non-profit group, grants the wishes of Hudson Valley children who are suffering with life-threatening medical conditions.
Stony Pointer Lauren Shields, the daughter of Jeanne Shields of Keller Williams Hudson Valley Realty in New City, was a “Wish” recipient and will be speaking at this year’s event. “Lauren’s journey was not an easy one at all, but Make-A-Wish brought such brightness to a time that had been so dark for so long,” said Jeanne Shields.
Lauren, now 14, had been a completely healthy child until age 8 when she developed viral myocarditis, a rare heart disease. “Basically, she caught a virus that attacked her heart,” explained Shields. “It was a one-in-100,000 chance.”
At the time, Shields was in the middle of conducting her sales meeting at a Weichert office in Nanuet when she got a call from Lauren’s school. “Lauren was complaining about a swollen belly, but I really didn’t think anything of it at the time,” she recalled. However, an x-ray and ultrasound revealed that fluids surrounded Lauren’s heart and she was hospitalized immediately. “She just went into heart failure – her heart was working at only 14 percent. Our lives literally changed overnight.”
When a donor heart for Shields finally arrived, the surgeons were worried that it might be too small, but after removing her old heart, they saw that it was grossly enlarged. The new one fit perfectly.
Following the March 2009 procedure, she suffered a stroke while recovering in the hospital. When she was well enough, she entered Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains, and later became an outpatient at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw. “At first, she was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to lift her arms above her head,” said Shields. Still, Lauren remained positive with a goal of walking through the door of Stony Point Elementary School that September. “She had to use a cane, but she did walk into school!”
After her experience, Lauren also actively campaigned for organ donor programs and helped to enact “Lauren’s Law.” This law makes it mandatory for New Yorkers to answer the question about organ donations on their driver’s license. In the past, drivers could ignore the question. Today, Lauren is healthy, returning to the doctor for heart check-ups every four to five months, and undergoing periodic blood testing. “She’ll be on medications for the rest of her life, which could present other complications later on, but we live in the moment,” said Shields.
Last year, HGAR raised almost $17,000 for Make-A- Wish® Hudson Valley. “This organization has been making a huge difference in the lives of children like Lauren for more than 25 years, and we are so pleased to be able to offer our help,” said Richard Haggerty, HGAR CEO.
Tickets are $60 per person and include a two-hour open bar, three hot food stations, appetizers, passed hors d’oeuvres, coffee and dessert, plus a DJ and dancing. For more information about the event, or to purchase tickets, visit www.HGAR.com.