In honor of February as Heart Awareness Month, this year, the fifth and sixth grade class of White Memorial Adventist School spent time studying about the heart, healthy heart-friendly habits as well as diseases and illnesses that occur when you don’t take care of your heart. “Upon hearing of the project that Mrs. Tupas-Setser wanted to present to her fifth and sixth graders, I was excited to hear about the results the class would establish,” said David Olivares, principal, White Memorial Adventist School.
The class also learned about the heartbreaking condition Congenital Heart Disease (CHD). Here in the U.S., each year, 1 in 120 babies are born with CHD. The class was inspired by the story of a young ambassador and CHD patient named Noah Bella. After watching her videos, the students were amazed at her positive, genuinely radiant nature. Noah’s natural candor and honesty about her feelings and the day-to-day challenges she faced living with CHD drew everyone into her stories, and the students asked how they could get to know Noah. They loved her bubbly personality and were inspired by the fact that this young girl, despite having undergone four major heart surgeries, started selling lemonade to bring awareness for CHD and raised $100,000 for patients and families affected by CHD.
After some online sleuthing and math, the students deduced that she was probably close to their age or slightly older and that she lived in Southern California! The class was scheduled to host chapel on Feb. 23, and students thought it might be a cool idea to invite Noah for a visit.
The devastating response to their invitation was that Noah had passed away in January of 2017. She was 13. Everyone’s hearts broke with the news. But that is not where the story ended. Noah was an avid reader, writer and storyteller, and her family had compiled some of her short stories into a book, Adventure On. Explore More. Discover You. Mrs. Cecile, Noah’s mom, wanted to share this book with the school, and the fifth and sixth graders were excited.
On Feb. 22, Mr. Keith, Noah’s dad, hand-delivered the books and spent time with the fifth and sixth grade students. He shared his own insights on CHD, Noah’s life and fielded questions about Noah, her interests and the various challenges she dealt with while she was alive. Hearing his stories made Noah Bella’s struggle, triumphs and life even more meaningful. One thing that especially cheered the students up was that Noah was able to meet and help name her little brother before she passed away.
During the class chapel presentation, students shared Noah’s story and ended their service by passing out a copy of her book to everyone in the school. “It was unfortunate that Noah Bella passed before we could hear her speak at our chapel, but this passionate young lady inspired us and brought CHD to our attention,” Olivares said. “Her struggle to serve others and her enthusiasm in bringing awareness to this disease clearly made a great impression on our students.”
By reaching out to Noah’s family, the class not only grew in knowledge and understanding of CHD, but the students were also able to bring awareness to the whole school about CHD while honoring the life of a young girl and her family’s dream of sharing her story to the world. Noah’s family is now creating a non-profit organization in honor of Noah Bella’s inspiring journey and hope that this organization will bring the under-researched conditions of lymphatic diseases to light.