A ‘heart’ for giving back

INDIAN TRAIL – One of the things Chris Perez learned from a difficult year was how to turn his own struggles into blessings for others.

(Above) Chris Perez reads to a class at Poplin Elementary School, one of the 32 acts of kindness he chose to complete to honor his son, Nolan, who was born with a congenital heart defect.

(Above) Chris Perez reads to a class at Poplin Elementary School, one of the 32 acts of kindness he chose to complete to honor his son, Nolan, who was born with a congenital heart defect.

Perez and his wife, Rebekah, welcomed twins into the world on Dec. 10, 2012, but their joy was mixed with apprehension and fear – one of the twins, Nolan, was born with a congenital heart defect. Nolan underwent his first open-heart surgery at seven days old, and another in summer 2013.

But in spite of his circumstances, Nolan remained strong, and Perez has dedicated his life to sharing his son’s story to inspire others and raise awareness about congenital heart defects. Perez launched a blog in October 2013 to share Nolan’s journey and, most recently, chose to complete 32 acts of kindness in his son’s name during the four days leading up to his 32nd birthday,
Feb. 17.

“It was really exciting, eye opening,” Perez said about completing the acts of kindness. “… I found out from this journey the very best thing that you can do for yourself is to do good for others.”

Perez began the acts on Feb. 14 – the Friday of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness week – and though the week’s snow and ice threw a few kinks into his plans, he incorporated some unexpected acts such as helping a neighbor push her car up her snowy driveway.

Other acts included giving back to charities like With Love From Jesus, the H.E.L.P. Crisis Pregnancy Center, Second Chance Boutique, the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte and Union County Crisis Assistance Ministry; bringing bagels to nurses at Levine Children’s Hospital and doughnuts to the Hemby Bridge Fire Department; buying lunch for others; paying for someone’s haircut at Great Clips; and a gift for the mail courier, among
others.

Perez gave each recipient a small card with some information about congenital heart defects and a snippet of Nolan’s story.

“The greatest part really was being able to share the story of Nolan and everything he’s been through,” Perez said.

Nolan will undergo his third and final open-heart surgery in about two years. In the meantime, Perez plans to continue sharing Nolan’s story to help others and hopes the 32 acts of kindness will become a contagion among the community, driving recipients to pay it forward.

“My hope is that people out there try it, too,” he said. “You’ll find out lots of great things about the community and how you can make a difference.”

Read more about Nolan’s story and view a complete list of Perez’s 32 acts of kindness at his blog, www.hlhsdad.wordpress.com.

 

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