Individual struggles, communal support

Local organizations and families gathered on Sept. 27 at Oak Brook Sports Core for the 20th-annual American Heart Association Heart Walk.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States, and extensive research requires huge donations each year. The AHA has created a unique setting for victims of cardiovascular disease and their family members to come and express their losses in a positive way.

Each individual at the event had their own experiences with the disease and wants to find cures, so no one else will go through similar hardships.

The event’s iconic survivor this year was 3-year-old Lily Kohl, who suffered from congenital heart disease.

  Lily Kohl is a three-year-old survivor of congenital heart disease. Now, she joins her father, Brennan Kohl, at the Heart Walk to support research on congenital heart disease, so no other child will suffer the way she did.

Lily Kohl is a three-year-old survivor of congenital heart disease. Now, she joins her father, Brennan Kohl, at the Heart Walk to support research on congenital heart disease, so no other child will suffer the way she did.

“She was born with a single ventricle heart,” said Brennan Kohl, Lily’s father. “She had three open-heart surgeries, one closed heart, and one stomach surgery after she was born.”

Children born with a single ventricle heart used to die within days, only a few decades ago. But now, research on the disease is saving more lives.

Now that Lily is doing better, she joins her family as supporters for research on cardiovascular disease overall.

“The disease is so widespread, and it is not blind to any age," Brennan Kohl said.