PULASKI COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A Somerset family was awarded the Finn Collier Youth Service Award for their commitment to raising funds and spreading awareness for congenital heart disease on Thursday during the Lake Cumberland virtual American Heart Association Heart Walk.
Finn Collier was a boy from Nicholasville who was born with five of the 12 congenital heart defects. He survived multiple surgeries, but died in April 2019 after an arrhythmia took his heart rate up to 400 beats per minute.
"Finn's life was so much more than heart disease," said Finn's father John Collier. "Heart disease was something that he lived with, but I mean, to look at the kid, you never know we would have had anything wrong with him. I want every kid that has that to live life to the fullest every day here and be able to get support locally."
John and his wife Tricia created the Finn Collier Service Award to raise awareness and funds for the American Heart Association to continue their research to help kids like Finn in the future. They also wanted to encourage other kids with CHD in central Kentucky to get involved.
With those goals, the Taylor family caught the Collier's attention. Two of their three children were born with CHD.
Their first-born, Sadie, was diagnosed with a heart murmur when she was 6 months old. Doctors at the University of Kentucky Children's Hospital said it was likely something that would go away on its own.
However, a few years passed and Sadie's mother, Bridget Taylor, could tell something was wrong.
"She couldn't even run or she would she be tired easily and she would wake up at night sweating. I mean, she'd wake up drenched. And I didn't have any idea that that was a heart defect. And then in 2016, I took her to the doctor for an ear infection. And when he was listening to her, he was more concerned with her heart than he was her ears."
Weeks later, Sadie was diagnosed with CHD due to coarctation of her aorta. She had surgery six weeks later and has been doing well since.
A few years later, Maverick Taylor came along was also born with a heart defect.
"But it was something different," Bridget said. "He has a VSD, which is just a hole between the two lower chambers of his heart."
Nowadays, the Taylor kids are down to only one cardiologist visit a year, but that does not take the worry away from Bridget and her husband.
"It is part of our everyday lives. Even though I know that they're healthy, it's still in the back of my mind," Bridget said. "So, we try to be a part of the fundraising and bringing awareness."
For the past several years the Taylor family organized baked-good fundraisers. This year, due to COVID-19, they changed their fundraiser to a community puzzle project to help raise money.
"So it was a $20 donation, and you got your name put on a puzzle piece, and we put our puzzle together," Bridget said. "And our goal was $1,000. And we met that within two weeks."
She explained her hope through their hometown fundraisers is that more people know about heart disease and are propelled to help.
"Most people almost have been touched by heart attack or stroke or something along those lines somewhere. Whether it's grandparents or parents or, you know, kids, it goes through generations and I think everybody knows somebody," said Bridget. "And it's very important that we try to bring as much awareness and if we can financially support it as well. If it wasn't for the research, the surgery that Sadie needed might not have been there."
The Colliers said the Taylor family's commitment to their fundraisers is what really made them stand above other applicants for their late son's service award.
"We chose this family because they've taken it upon themselves to go above and beyond to give to the American Heart Association to raise funds for research," Tricia said. It was their own time and their own expense, and doing these things to raise funds for the research is so important because without the research can't improve the quality of life for a lot of these heart kids."
The virtual Heart Walk aimed to raise $25,000 for the Central Kentucky chapter of the American Heart Association. Click here to support the research efforts.