At 10 and 8 years old, Heather Hagopian and her sister Haley founded The Holiday Heroes Foundation. Heather spent a good part of her childhood in a hospital bed with cystic fibrosis. While in the hospital, she and her fellow ward-mates sorely missed the holiday experiences that other children took for granted. She committed herself, if she were able to leave the hospital, to return with holiday cheer. Good to her word, she and her family not only returned to Lurie Children’s Hospital (formerly Children’s Memorial Hospital) – with presents, decorations and big smiles – they also formed Holiday Heroes to bring these important hours of normalcy to children in other hospitals.
More than 10 years ago, sisters Heather and Haley Hagopian began meeting many children with serious illnesses that required long-term or frequent hospitalizations. While getting to know these new friends, they began noticing that many of these children would spend their birthdays and holidays in hospital beds with no gifts, no celebrations and little to smile about.
Heather and Haley became inspired to make an impact on these kids’ lives and get them smiling again. With the help of family and the hospital, they began hosting holiday parties for these children in critical and long-term care, transforming the pediatric unit into a fun, positive and hopeful environment. They delivered decorations, upbeat music, games, prizes, storytelling and other entertainment directly to the kids who needed just this kind of joy in their lives. Little did they know these experiences would create long-lasting joy and happy memories for the children, their families, and their caregivers.
Over time, their good works caught the attention and support of the hospital, several sports celebrities and others interested in making an immediate and long-term social impact in the lives of hospitalized children. They formed a board of directors and incorporated into the Holiday Heroes Foundation non-profit organization in January 2009.