Clifton Park hosts a picnic with heart

The Cleveland Browns of the 1980s were known as the Cardiac Kids for their habit of keeping games close, only to lose in the final seconds.

These Cardiac Kids are a whole different story.

The American Heart Association held their ninth-annual Cardiac Kids picnic at Collins Park in Clifton Park on Sunday, Sept. 23. About 30 families came for food, fun, and support.

The Cardiac Kids is a support group for families with children who have congenital heart defects. Many of the children have had heart surgeries at a very young age.

Julie Pelletier is a corporate events director for the American Heart Association and organized the picnic.

It really raises awareness for children and heart disease. It affects all ages, Pelletier said. "Also, it's support for families that go through similar situations that they have a place for other people to talk to."

Both of Matt Samuels' daughters, Jessica, 14, and Amanda, 11, were open-heart surgery patients.

The Samuels family has come to all nine of the group's annual picnics, and also participates in the association's Heart Walk.

Samuels said that Jessica had a surgery when she was only 6 months old and another at age 2.

"It was pretty tough, especially her second surgery," Samuels said. "She had some complications that were a little more serious."

"It's just a good place to hang out with people like us and have fun with everybody else like us," Jessica said. "It just shows how much it affects the population, not just a little piece of the community. It's all around. Most people don't really recognize that."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It accounted for almost 30 percent of all deaths in 2004.

"I like it because everyone's like me; I'm not different," Amanda said. "It's nice to know that other kids have gone through what I've gone through."

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