Hope for broken hearts

When Adam Armiger (’07) was 10 years old, his sister Hope Marietta was born with a congenital heart defect.  During her first two weeks of life, she endured two open-heart surgeries. But that wasn’t enough. Her tiny heart couldn’t be fixed. Hope died as a result of her broken heart.

Hope Marietta Armiger was not alone. According to the March of Dimes, some 35,000 children are born every year with structural heart defects ranging from the undiagnosed to the catastrophic. Many children are not even aware of the condition and lead normal lives; others discover it later. But many infants born with damaged hearts require immediate and significant intervention and care.

Adam Armiger understands this and has taken steps to help.

More than a decade after losing his sister, Adam founded the Hope Marietta Foundation to keep her memory alive and to raise both funds and awareness of congenital heart defects. According to the foundation’s website, CHDs claim the lives of twice as many children as all childhood cancers combined, yet funding for research amounts to only one fifth of what it is for cancer. The Hope Marietta Foundation supports research through contributions to the Children’s Heart Foundation, the only organization created to exclusively fund congenital heart defect research.

But the Hope Marietta Foundation does much more. Adam, a College of Business graduate who works as an analyst with CW Capital Asset Management in Northern Virginia, knows firsthand the difficulties faced by families struggling with  heart defects. The foundation supports these families — and they have fun doing so, raising funds and visibility with events as varied as casino nights to skeeball tourneys to stockings and cold beer.

The Hope Marietta Foundation has a distinctive JMU feel. Co-founder and legal counsel for the organization is Sean Wainwright (’06), an international affairs graduate who went on to earn a law degree from Rutgers University. He is an account executive for a startup floral service out of Manhattan, now operating in D.C.  Also working with the foundation is Kerrin Delaney (’07), a communications studies graduate who directs brand development for the foundation. She is corporate marketing director for Amphora Group, a successful and award-winning food service company consisting of gourmet catering, European style bakeries and local, national and international fare restaurants.

Together Adam, Sean, Kerrin and scores of dedicated friends are keeping Hope Marietta’s memory alive — and changing lives along the way.

To learn more about the Hope Marietta Foundation, go to their website: http://www.hopemariettafoundation.org/

You can also follow the foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

And here’s an interview with founder Adam Armiger: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoLDMFU7mDo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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The persistent kind

Unknown-1This year’s Super Bowl was as fun to watch online as it was on television as people weighed in throughout the game on Facebook and Twitter. When the power went out and the game was temporarily halted, some people ran to their computers and smart phones, while sports commentators caught flat-footed tried desperately to fill air space.  All the while, we were treated to over-hyped commercials that often fell short of expectations

One Facebook post caught my attention. Justin Constantine (’92) wrote: “In case any of you missed the commercial about the Wounded Warrior Project during the Super Bowl tonight, here is the YouTube link.” He posted the video with a reminder of how easy it is to contribute to the cause.  What struck me was Justin’s dedication in the midst of the gridiron contest that borders on a national obsession. He wasn’t taking a break from his all important work.

The same should be said for Adam Armiger (’07) whose commitment to the Hope Marietta Foundation found Adam cheering on his Facebook page about Hunter Paulin, a friend of the foundation and the Play 60 Super Kid of the Year. Hunter who has a congenital heart condition delivered the game ball.

It made me realize that significant change — the kind that alters lives and has widespread and lifelong impact — requires commitment of the persistent kind. Lasting change demands a commitment that does not ease up, slow up or give up. It is on going, devoted and never interrupted by even the most memorable of Superbowls.

Individuals like Justin and Adam demonstrate this.  To care and wish and even work a little isn’t enough.  Change happens with serious commitment, persistence and a relentless drive for the long haul.

Labor is the new retirement

Morgan Leary (’14) and a few Honduran friends.

Retirement is a dirty word around my house. While I confess my husband and I are admitted workaholics, we like being productive — in the game, involved, contributing — however you term it. And we have no intention of ever changing that status. Someday we might slow down a bit, modify it, but retire. Never.

These days many individuals with diminished savings or sagging home values don’t have an option to retire. Whether it is by choice or circumstance, more and more people are staying in the game longer. Traditional retirement is becoming less of a line of demarcation and more of a blurry passage to a different iteration of the same. A new breed of retiree often chooses to use talents indefinitely. Labor is the new retirement.

For many, however, working on through that life milestone of “retirement” has perks, only one of which is financial.

This morning on Facebook, I heard from my friend and former boss, Fred Hilton (’96M). Fred is still on his game. Oh, is he ever! He retired from JMU after a long career guiding Madison’s media relations arena and later heading up the hugely successful JMU Centennial Celebration. Fred and his wife Leta moved to Florida a few years ago. They love it. But Fred is a writer and writers, like teachers and doctors and carpenters and umpteen other “laborers,” love what they do, therefore not doing it isn’t fun. So Fred, like so many of today’s retirees, has continued to practice his craft. Writing regularly for Healthy Living magazine, he explored this month how dogs see the world in Fidochrome: Can Dogs See Color?

Another good example is “retired” JMU professor Clive Hallman. You can read a wonderful story by JMU’s Janet Smith (’81) on the JMU web right now.

One of my favorite examples of staying in the game is Mr. Charles Wampler, former member of JMU’s board of visitors. It wasn’t too long ago that I visited someone at the hospital here in Harrisonburg and saw Mr. Wampler working the visitor desk as a volunteer. Mr. Wampler was born in 1915. You do the math. That’s staying in the game.

I strongly suspect that this trend will continue, not because of the economy – who in the world knows what it will do — but because the GenXers have a great take on work. They understand that work is more than, well, work. It’s an opportunity to contribute to society and to do something meaningful.

Take, for example,  Morgan Leary (’14). She’s majoring in International Affairs with a minor in Latin American studies and a concentration in nonprofit studies. She spent part of her summer teaching English in Honduras. She looks at work not only as earning her keep on this green earth but also as a chance to change lives for the better.  (Expect more about Morgan in a blog later this month.) The same can be said for Adam Armiger (’07). In addition to his day job in the business world, he runs the Hope Marietta Foundation to raise money for children born with congenital heart defects.

I could go on and on with examples, but you get my drift. Work today and maybe forever is not only about a checkbook but also about making a difference, which makes retirement in the traditional sense passe. Clearly, the lines between work and retirement are blurring. We are working longer. We are staying active longer. We are living longer — with much more to give along the way.

So, on this day designated to honor labor, let’s celebrate how work, a new approach to retirement and a new generation are making the future brighter.

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