Among the millions of trick-or-treaters scavenging for candy tonight will be a group of neighbors in Texas doing all they can to help a girl who will turn 14 on Saturday and is in need of a heart transplant.
Anna King, of The Woodlands, has been waiting 538 days for a new heart after being diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy in 2012. The cardiomyopathy, believed to have been caused by a virus, has left Anna’s heart swollen and unable to pump properly, meaning the teenager is unable to attend school full-time or participate in normal teen activities like playing soccer and going to the mall.
When a local mortgage broker learned from his wife, who was Anna’s sixth-grade teacher at the time she was diagnosed, that Anna was still, nearly two years later, on the waiting list for a life-saving transplant, he figured out how he could help.
The broker, Jason Higham, arranged to have his company, Cherry Creek Mortgage, host “Halloween for a Heart” today to raise money for Anna’s medical care.
“I was both surprised and amazed,” Anna’s father, Joe King, told GoodMorningAmerica.com. “We haven’t been here that long and it was nice to have people who are relatively new in our life to reach out in such a big way.”
Cherry Creek’s employees set up an online fundraising page that has already exceeded their initial goal of $10,000. Today they’ll host a costume contest, silent auction and a “haunted hallway” of trick-or-treating for the community in their local office to raise even more money for Anna.
“Anna came and spoke at one of our monthly meetings, and we all just fell in love with her,” said Erin Ward, marketing director for Cherry Creek. “We decided that we wanted to give back and that Halloween was a great time to do this for her.”
Ward, who describes Anna as “extremely charismatic,” says the community’s response has been “overwhelming.”
“Listening to Anna’s optimistic outlook on everything has really inspired all of us, our clients and the community around us,” she said.
Anna’s dad seconds that his daughter has handled her life-altering diagnosis with a glass-half-full approach.
“The length of time [waiting for the transplant] has started to get to her, but she’s still 95 percent of the time a very positive and optimistic person,” said King, who works in sales but will soon trade places with his wife, Pam, a teacher, to take care of Anna full-time at home.
The Kings, who have a second daughter, Lila, 10, have no idea when Anna will receive a transplant since the list changes constantly based on the need and supply.
“It just happens,” King said. “If someone is the same blood type as Anna but is in worse shape, then they go ahead of her. The stars have to align.”
As the family continues to wait, they’re happy to have a community of neighbors behind them, and a fun party to attend today.
“Anna is going in costume but it’s a surprise so there’s no way I can give it away,” King said.