GLEN ALLEN, Va. (WRIC) — Nine-year-old Harlie Holton has a lot to celebrate. She is now a member of the “naked neck club.” The trach she’d needed to breathe since birth is finally out.
“She is very happy. She seems like she is already making more progress, faster,” says Harlie’s mom Christy Holston with a smile.
Christy explains this milestone would not have been possible without everyone involved in the nonprofit We Heart Harlie and Friends. They raise money for children in our community with countless medical needs who more often than not have to travel to hospitals in other states for care.
“Insurance pays for a bit, Medicare pays for a bit, but nobody picks up the tab for transportation, for lodging, for meals,” explains Lynda Reider, Founder and Executive Director of We Heart Harlie and Friends.
Reider came up with the idea for this unique fundraising effort when she learned about the challenges Harlie’s family faced in the Spring of 2012. They found a team of surgeons in Boston who could give Harlie a better quality of life, but it would take a minimum of four trips to Boston to make the surgery possible.
Reider quickly organized an effort to raise money to get Harlie to Boston for the life-changing medical appointments. That first fundraiser was a success, and Reider and the community continued to rally around Harlie and then expanded their efforts to help other children who are medically-fragile.
All of the out-of-town appointments add up. Christy says Harlie has already logged nearly fifty surgeries.
One “Friend” of Harlie is 13-year-old Alex. She does not have a diagnosis but does have needs around-the-clock. Sometimes her medical care requires her family to be separated while she sees specialists in Michigan. We Heart Harlie and Friends steps in during those tough times to pay bills for families and offer other support.
“Put yourself in their shoes,” Reider explains why she and so many others tirelessly raise money and awareness for these kids living in the Richmond area. “If it was your child.”
We Heart Harlie and Friends is a network of people who care about these children, their challenges and successes.
“The other day I heard her giggle for the first time. Like a real giggle,” says Christy. “With the trach, we didn’t hear that, and I didn’t know what that was at first, and I realized it was her giggling. A beautiful sound.”
Adds Reider, “That’s why we got this whole thing started. To let them know you’re not alone. We love you.”
We Heart Harlie and Friends is holding its annual Fall Ball on October 3. It will go on from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Wellesley Community Center on Lauderdale Drive. Follow this link for ticket information.