Mason’s Angels continues push for heart disease research

Published 12:10 am Thursday, November 8, 2018

METAIRIE — Organized in memory of little Mason Villagran of LaPlace, the Mason’s Angels Heart Walk team will likely be honored as the 2018 Top Team in New Orleans Nov. 17 for the contribution of more than $4,300 to the American Heart Association.

Put into action, the donations support heart disease research and fund pulse oximetry screenings to diagnose potentially life-threatening heart conditions in newborns, according to organizer Stephanie Villagran.

This year’s Heart Walk kicks off with a host of festivities at 8 a.m. Nov. 17 at LaSalle Park in Metairie and marks the third year Mason’s Angels has participated.

To Villagran, participation means keeping her son’s spirit alive and supporting families who endure similar battles.

Mason braved through multiple surgeries, 25 blood transfusions and prolonged hospital stays before he gained his wings in April 2016, just short of two and a half years old.

Mason’s ASD/VSD, AV valve deficiency, lung disease and Down Syndrome diagnoses did not damper his happy demeanor or shining personality. His loss will forever impact Stephanie, his father Chris and his twin sister Malaya.

Within Mason’s Angels first two years of participating in the Heart Walk, the team won two third place awards.

Villagran expects that will evolve into a first place award this year based on the amount of money raised, which amounted to $4,350 at the start of the week.

Awards are also given for team member sign up, which has increased from approximately 25 Mason’s Angels participants in 2017 to nearly 100 in 2018.

While reaching out to parents of children with heart disease has helped donations multiply, Villagran hopes to see more involvement from St. John the Baptist Parish residents.

Villagran has read stories of local children with pediatric heart disease and knows from experience that parents benefit from a support system.

According to Villagran, people often link heart disease with adults who suffer heart attacks, not knowing various forms of the disease impact up to one in three newborns.

“We’re trying to gear (St. John Parish) to get more involved,” Villagran said. “It’s important for our area that the community embraces these families. If there is more awareness, families won’t be afraid to discuss pediatric heart disease. People are afraid to talk about it because it involves children, and they don’t know how to have that conversation.”

There is still time to help Mason’s Angels reach its ambitious goal of raising $5,000 by donating at

Even without a donation, Villagran said St. John Parish residents are invited to join the Heart Walk.

Free and family-oriented, this year’s Heart Walk includes a 1.8-mile walk, food, drinks, music, a Children’s Hospital Kids’ Heart Challenge obstacle course, NOLA Muscle Park mobile Ninja Warrior activities, a T-shirt design contest, SPCA adoptable dogs and a “Top Dog” tent where owners can have their dog’s picture taken.

“They also have free Walgreens flu shots, blood pressure screenings and CPR demonstrations,” Villagran said. “It’s so important because the flu can lead to an ICU visit for patients with heart disease.”

For more information, contact or 504-329-2573.