When 8-year-old Austin Bourn learned his classmate Trinity Poire needed to go to New York for tests to see if she was eligible for a heart transplant, he told his mom he wanted to help raise money to get her there.
His family’s efforts have helped raise around $17,000 for the 7-year-old girl who was born with a rare heart defect called hypoplastic left-heart syndrome.
Trinity has had several surgeries since she was born and now requires a transplant to keep her alive, said her mother Desiree Poire. At least five hospitals told the family Trinity was too high-risk for a transplant and declined to treat her.
In early February the family learned Columbia University Medical Center had agreed to conduct tests on Trinity to determine if she was a candidate for a transplant, and the family needed money for transportation, lodging and other expenses .
“She can’t run and climb, she can only walk around, so it’d be really hard living like that since you were a baby,” Austin said.
The Bourn family eagerly helped support Austin’s desire to help his friend. His mom, Kim Bourn, is director of the Zuckerman Family Foundation and has been involved with several other nonprofit organizations for many years. His father is local commercial real estate developer Don Bourn.
“I thought, ‘Wow, we’re doing something right, we’ve created compassion,’ ” Kim Bourn said. “We were just excited that he wanted to do this, so we were willing to do whatever he wanted to help raise money and awareness for Trinity’s situation.”
Austin’s initial fundraising idea was to sell bags of his grandma Bourn’s caramel corn.
“It was the week of Valentine’s Day ... and he said everybody could be Trinity’s valentine with his idea,” Kim Bourn said.
Austin and a couple of other friends from Immaculate Heart School got together to make and bag the sweet treat and sold the bags for $10 outside Tavolino restaurant at Plaza Colonial. They sold out in one day and earned $700 for Trinity’s trip.
“It made me feel great because when someone is hurt or something, you want to help them because it makes you feel good,” Austin said.
But there was more work to be done to reach Austin’s goal of raising $15,000.
“Austin’s kind of like his daddy — when he puts his mind to something he makes it happen, whether it’s riding his bike without training wheels or raising money to help support a friend, so we knew he wasn’t going to stop,” Kim Bourn said. “I told him, ‘Austin, I don’t think mommy can help you make enough caramel corn to raise $15,000.’ ”
Austin and his mom drafted an email they sent to everyone they knew explaining Trinity’s situation, Austin’s desire to help and asking for donations.
Friends and family responded by donating about $6,000 to Trinity’s family.
“As the old saying goes, it takes a village,” Kim Bourn said.
To further help with Austin’s goal, Kim Bourn helped set up a GoFundMe.com fundraising campaign for the Poire family, which has received more than $10,000 in donations from family, friends, fellow church members and strangers.
“For him to care about Trinity that much to want to do something for her, honestly I was just taken back by that,” Desiree Poire said. “He’s 8 years old and he realized how important this was. He realized this was a matter of life or death for her, and he just kind of took it on as his own and it was just impressive to both my husband and I.”
To recognize Austin’s efforts, the Poires nominated him for a Ben’s Bell, which he received at school last week.
“That’s the first time that anyone in my class had done a fundraiser,” Trinity said. “I felt so good.”
The Poire family made the trip to New York in mid-February and after testing doctors agreed to perform the transplant. But the family of six will need to relocate.
“Columbia gives us hope that she can graduate high school. She wants to be a doctor and help kids like her,” Desiree Poire said. “She was meant to be here, she has wonderful things to do.”
The Poires and other family and friends have organized other fundraisers to make the move smoother for the family.