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Carrick boy, 9, to give his funds for transplant to others in need

| Friday, Aug. 6, 2010

The South Allegheny community came together to raise money for a Carrick boy who was in need of a heart transplant, and he will donate those funds to other sick children who need it more than he.

"I want to help other kids that have to get heart transplants, liver transplants, kidney transplants and all those other transplants," Zack Mulvey said. "I want to help people who were sick like me."

The 9-year-old will present $3,710 to the non-profit charitable organization Jamie's Dream Team on Sunday at 11 a.m. at Port Vue Athletic Association.

"I'm such a proud mama," Zack's mother Crystal Mulvey, a Glassport native, said. "He's so sweet."

"He's an amazing child," Jamie's Dream Team founder Jamie Holmes said. "It's an amazing family. I have developed a relationship with Crystal and Zack. I hope they're involved with Jamie's Dream Team and I'm involved with the family for a very long time."

Zack will throw out the first pitch at the adult South Allegheny Community Co-ed Softball League tournament. The softball league raised $2,500, while St. Mark Parish Vacation Bible School raised $1,200 for Zack, who is recovering from heart transplant surgery.

Softball player Amy Hresko said the idea to give to Zack was inspired by Jennifer Morabeto, also a softball player, who said she was selling bracelets for Zack.

"When we started the co-ed league, our goal was to give money to St. Jude's." Hresko said. "I talked to my husband (Bob Hresko) and he said this is the perfect person to raise money for. Our first game was the day Zack got his heart transplant. It kicked off our season."

League participants paid $35 per player and $65 per couple to register, and "all the money from the sign-ups went to Zack's fund," Hresko said.

"Everybody brought their own bat, and PVAA let us use the field at no charge because we told them what we were doing," she said. "PVAA also gave us the majority of the equipment to use. Nick Pikula donated softballs. Everybody has helped and worked together for this."

A trophy will be awarded to the winner of Sunday's six-team tournament, and there also will be sports games for children.

The softball league has 80 players.

"Since we've been playing, we have more people signed up for next year," Hresko said. "Every year, we'll play for a different charity. Next year, we are raising money for Jamie's Dream Team."

St. Mark Parish Vacation Bible School director Bobbi Dansak said she heard about Zack through Lori DiMarco, one of her teachers.

Dansak said she consulted with the Rev. Gerald Mikonis, who was enthusiastic about the idea.

"We were looking for a mission project to teach the children about helping other children in need," she said. "The children would do chores at home to collect extra money. It was amazing to see the generosity of the children and how much they wanted to help. Their parents also reached into their pockets to give."

The Bible school that took place July 12-16 and had 109 kids participate.

Zack had his first heart transplant on Nov. 24, 2001, when he was 10 months old.

When Mulvey was visiting her mother in Tionesta with Zack on Labor Day 2001, Zack showed signs of illness.

"He was just blue all day long on Labor Day," she said.

Zack went into cardiac arrest at the local hospital and had to be flown by medical helicopter to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Mulvey said doctors diagnosed Zack with dilated cardiomyopathy, which occurs when the heart is enlarged and weakened. Mulvey said her son's left ventricle was enlarged and not pumping, and doctors decided he needed a heart transplant.

"That heart lasted nine years," Mulvey said. "Then on May 10 of this year, he went into cardiac arrest the day after Mother's Day."

It happened while Zack's stepfather Earl Simms was getting him ready for school. Mulvey said transplant coronary artery disease caused the cardiac arrest.

"The doctors told me to go home and tell everyone we would be preparing a funeral," Mulvey said. "That evening, while I was telling my family, the phone rang and it was a doctor from the ICU at Children's Hospital. She said, 'I've got something to tell you, Crystal. It's a miracle of sorts. Zack's up. He's wiggling his toes, wiggling his fingers and blinking his eyes.' He woke up the following day and they put him on the Berlin Heart."

The German-made pediatric Berlin Heart device is specially made to fit children to keep their heart pumping until a transplant.

Zack was on the Berlin Heart for five weeks until a heart became available on June 19. He was released from the hospital on July 7.

He is now on 11 medications, taking 15 doses per day. He attends physical therapy sessions three times a week and goes to cardiology sessions every week and a half.

"He's back to his old self, or getting there, anyway," Mulvey said.

Zack can't play contact sports for the rest of his life.

Health insurance has covered the majority of Zack's medical expenses.

Holmes and Dream Team vice president Kim Shidel said they don't see many children Zack's age make such donations.

"For a young man to donate that money is unbelievable," Shidel said. "Kids with medical problems have special hearts and that's why Jamie does what she does."

Zack has a Facebook prayer page with 876 members, and that's how Hresko contacted Mulvey.

"This little boy has a piece of our hearts," Hresko said. "He amazes me. We raised the money for him, but it's his wish to give it to Jamie's Dream Team."

Mulvey's friend Dawn McPherson raised money for the family by selling bracelets.

When Zack was hospitalized, the family planned to buy gift bags for all of the child patients, using the South Allegheny donation, until Mulvey heard about Jamie's Dream Team. Another child who received her heart transplant on the same day as Zack also inspired the boy and his mother to donate to other children in need.

Zack has a sister, Malayah Simms, 4, and a brother, Bailey Mulvey, 11.

Jamie's Dream Team, which is based in White Oak, is working on a special request for Zack. The charity grants dreams for the terminally ill or those with serious medical needs.

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