By Suzanne Vanderhoef
Becky and Greg Ortyl’s son, Oakes, was born with a congenital heart defect. He lived in the hospital for his whole life –a total of about 15 months — and was given the nickname “Mighty Oakes” because he went through so much but stayed so strong.
When Oakes was about 2-1/2 months old, they learned that he would need a double lung transplant. But, before the surgery, his parents met with someone from Children’s Hospital who was looking into their insurance and she suggested that they hold a fundraiser to raise $30,000, just in case. The Ortyls, along with their friends, held a golf tournament and auction dinner. They raised $100,000 in one night.
Sadly, at a certain point, they realized that Oakes wasn’t going to live a full life and that they wouldn’t need the money, so they began giving it away to other families with a child battling a heart condition. This eventually turned into The Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation.
“They were able to provide us financial support,” says Jackie Hay, whose 1-year old son Ben was born with a heart defect. “You know, with Ben being in the hospital and me having two other small children, I wasn’t really able to work. So we went from a two income household to a one income household. Not having to worry about how we were going to pay for things was a huge sense of relief.”
And the Ortyl Family gets their own sense of happiness knowing they are helping other families be able to spend as much time as possible with their children, even if that means daily visits to the hospital for months or even years.
“It just fills my heart to know that we’ve been able to play this small part in supporting them and loving them and giving them the opportunity to stay together as a family unit,” says Becky Ortyl. “As Oakes mom, it is kind of a dream come true that we can offer that financial support and give those parents a big hug and give them the freedom just stay here with your kid love on them. We know that that is going to be the best medicine that kid gets. And hopefully that love and attention is healing for that family for that child and then they can go home just as soon as possible.”
If you would like to learn more about The Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation, visit www.mightyoakes.org