Riley fundraiser art sale by 8 year old Bennett Morris continues through February

AVOCA- The Month of February is known for a lot of things, such as Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, and Groundhogs Day. Something it is now known for is National Heart Month.

The intent is to focus on the wellbeing of heart health; however, it has taken on a whole new meaning for 8-year-old Avoca resident Bennett Morris.

Bennett Morris

When Bennett was born, hospital staff took immediate action when they determined he was suffering from Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a congenital heart defect, where the left side of the baby’s heart is underdeveloped. This means that the left side of the heart cannot pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, so the right side of the heart takes over this workload.

Thus began the long journey to recovery for the family. Bennett would go on to have three open-heart surgeries, at 8-days-old, 3-months-old, and 2-years-old first beginning with the Norwood procedure.

This surgery usually is done within the first 2 weeks of a baby’s life. Surgeons create a “new” aorta and connect it to the right ventricle while placing a tube from either the aorta or the right ventricle to the vessels supplying the lungs (pulmonary arteries). This allows the right ventricle to pump blood to both the lungs and the rest of the body. This can be a very challenging surgery.

The Morris family

“We spent a total of 37 days at Riley’s Children’s Hospital in recovery,” said Jordan Morris, Bennett’s father. “Bennett will live the rest of his life with half a heart unless, of course, he gets a heart transplant.”

The family would go through the next steps including the Hemi-Fontan and Fontan procedures, leaving Bennett with half a heart, as one side is doing the work of both parts of his heart.

Bennett with some of the artwork and giftbags he made for the fundraiser

In response to the help that he has received from Riley’s Hospital Heart Floor and Fontan Blood Pump Research, Bennett is selling valentine’s gifts, artwork, and bags among other items.

“Bennett loves art and started doing this all on his own. We decided that we would like to do a fundraiser to help Riley’s and the other kids that may be going through the same thing as Bennett, by selling his artwork,” said Morris. “We chose to use the entire month of February, as it is National Heart Month, to help support the place that supported us from day one.”

Naturally, the artwork will be heart-themed before Valentine’s day where they will switch gears and start including some of Bennett’s original artwork that he has done over the years through the remainder of the month.

The family started a website that will feature original artwork from Bennett and the help of his two brothers for members of the community to purchase and enjoy, while also supporting a great cause.

All of the proceeds from these sales will go to support Riley Hospital Heart Floor and Rodefeld’s Fontan Blood Pump to help future hearts like Bennett’s.

The proceeds will help individual children with their needs from videogames, to books or even stuffed animals that will be used to help them through their recovery at the hospital.