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Small Heroes, Big Hearts ; New foundation supports children with disabilities & special needs

LAPLACE — Sherineka Mitchell has spent countless days at the hospital throughout her 2-year-old son’s journey with congenital heart disease. Along the way, she’s learned that having access to resources and a support system can make a world of a difference.

Mitchell started the Carson’s Small Heroes, Big Hearts Foundation in June 2021 to support children with disabilities and special needs in the St. John the Baptist Parish community and beyond.

“I’ve gotten to know a lot of parents that were going through similar things with their special needs or disabled children. There were other moms that wanted to start support groups and make care packages for the hospital. Basically, it’s about being an advocate and an avenue for those parents in the community,” Mitchell said.

Those on the outside looking in would never guess that Mitchell’s son, Carson, was diagnosed with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) at birth. He’s outgoing and smart, the type of child who will smile and say “hello” to every person he sees. He’s earned the nickname “Pops” because he sometimes acts like an old man, wise beyond his years.

He endured open heart surgery at only 6 months old and continues to live with a hole in his heart. Visiting the cardiologist every four months brings its own set of challenges, even though he faces each appointment with the bravery of a superhero.

Mitchell envisions St. John Parish becoming a community that creates spaces to accommodate children with disabilities and special needs. This might involve making local parks accessible to children of all abilities or raising awareness of community resources for special needs families.

One of Mitchell’s long-term goals is to set up a daycare or small event center for children with disabilities and special needs.

“I would like to have a center similar to a YMCA where children can gather and have activities to meet people like them,” Mitchell said.

She also hopes to start a support group for parents. Due to COVID-19, it will likely begin on a Zoom platform.

“We want to meet at least once a month. For parents, sometimes it’s stressful not finding someone you can relate to. Being around other parents who have been through the same thing can help you vent or even get some resources or some answers,” Mitchell said.

Once the group can meet in-person, Mitchell plans to bring in specialists such as family counselors or advocates for children with special needs.

Mitchell would love for anyone who knows of local resources to reach out to her so she can compile a resource sheet to distribute to parents in the hospital and in the community.

The community can get involved by helping Carson’s Small Heroes, Big Hearts Foundation donate care packages to families at Children’s Hospital and Ochsner Jefferson Highway.

Mitchell has already collected hygiene items, journals and bottled water. She said monetary donations are still needed to purchase food cards for parents.

“When children are admitted to the hospital, the parents have to stay there, but they might just be given a blanket, a pillow and a few towels. Everything else, they need to get on their own,” Mitchell said. “Unfortunately, there are people that don’t have family that can bring them these things. In some cases, they’ve exhausted their resources trying to take care of a child and can’t afford these things.”

Monetary donations for food cards can be submitted through CashApp at $HeroesHeart, PayPal @cshbhf or through Zelle at 504-669-6420.

Carson’s Small Heroes, Big Hearts Foundation has also started a “Superhero of the Month” feature spotlighting children ages 0-18. Parents are asked to submit a brief summary of their child’s superpower (disability/special need) along with a photo and a summary of their child’s favorite activities via DM, email or text by the 10th of every month.

A superhero will be chosen each month and will be posted to the Foundation’s social media platforms. The child will also receive a gift card and a care package. The August superhero, an awesome little boy named Messiah, received cupcakes, balloons and PJMasks gear for his third birthday.

More information can be found on the organization’s Facebook page at carsons_smallheroes_bighearts. Mitchell can also be reached at littleherosbighearts@yahoo.com or by calling 504-669-6420.