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Hope for Hearts

COB alum Adam Armiger (’07) honors his sister and helps better the lives of those affected by congenital heart defects
By James Irwin (’06)

Adam Armiger (’07) and Britt McHenry

Adam Armiger (’07) and WJLA-TV 7 sports reporter Britt McHenry — Photo courtesy of Kate Haus Photography

Adam Armiger (’07) wasn’t thinking about changing the world. That approach wouldn’t have made much sense. To change the world, you needed to set out to change the world. You needed to think macro — big, big, big. Adam was envisioning something closer to home. Adam was thinking about Hope.

He was 10 when his sister, Hope Marietta Armiger, passed away, 15 days after her birth, from complex congenital heart defects. By the time Adam enrolled at JMU, he knew he wanted to do something to help better the lives of those affected by CHDs.

“I was very young when my sister was born, and we were going through hard times,” Adam said. “Some families deal with this for the entire lives of the kids, and it’s expensive and takes a toll emotionally and financially.”

More than a decade after losing his sister, Adam, with help from fellow JMU alum Sean Wainwright (’06) made good on his goal and founded the Hope Marietta Foundation, keeping his sister’s memory alive and raising awareness of congenital heart defects.

CHDs are the world’s No. 1 birth ailment and the leading cause of all infant deaths in the United States. And yet, despite CHDs claiming the lives of twice as many children as all childhood cancers combined, funding for research amounts to only one-fifth of cancer funding.

Armiger’s D.C.-based foundation focuses on those most affected by CHDs, helping support families in the area with medical expenses or funding admission to Camp Heart, hosted by Children’s Hospital. Money and awareness are raised through events, including skeeball tournaments, stuffing stockings at Children’s Hospital and miniature golf at the H Street Country Club.

Casino Night Fundrasier for the Hope Marietta Foundation

Photo courtesy of Kate Haus Photography

In February 2011 — during American Heart Month and Congenital Heart Week — the foundation hosted its largest fundraiser to date, “Hope For Hearts Casino Night” in Arlington with more than 250 guests in attendance. The event raised $10,000 for cardiac patient assistance funds at the Children’s Hospital Foundation — helping needy families with their hospital bills. Funds from the 2012 event (to be held Feb. 11) will go to purchase Fun Centers through the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Starlight Children’s Foundation, providing entertainment and family activities to children with chronic and life-threatening conditions.

For Armiger, a College of Business alum, helping families and children cope with the pain and isolation of prolonged illness is a mission rooted in philanthropy.

“It’s very obvious to me that everyone could do a little bit more; everyone can give something,” he said. “There are so many people and groups out there who need help.”

Help, both in the form of donations and volunteers to run the foundation, has come in a wave of purple. Fellow JMU graduates Kerrin Delaney (’07), Cabell Dickinson (’06) and Wainwright serve on the HMF executive committee. Scores of Madison alumni attend foundation events in the Northern Virginia area, bringing awareness to the cause and keeping Hope’s memory alive.

“One of the special things that has come out of this charity is that my sister is constantly in the minds of my friends and family,” Armiger said. “That’s really been something special.”

It turns out, a simple idea can make a difference. Changing the world doesn’t need to begin on a grand level. It can originate closer to home. The fight against CHDs is ongoing and yet, Armiger’s foundation has found its way into the hearts and minds of those who believe in the power of something universal. In thinking about Hope, Adam Armiger has found a way to inspire it.

Learn more about the Hope Marietta Foundation, visit the foundation's Facebook page, donate today, watch Adam Armiger’s February 2011 interview on Let’s Talk Live and read more about Adam on the JMU Alumni Association’s “100 Days of Dukes” (Day 20).