About Us

Our story began on October 20th, 2010 when our beautiful son Francesco was born. What was the best day of our lives, we also knew was only the beginning to a very long road ahead. Our son was born with a rare and severe heart defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This CHD (congenital heart defect), in layman's terms, meant that our son was born with only half of his heart and would need multiple open heart surgeries, the first one at just days old.

After his first open heart surgery, Francesco was hospitalized for 5 weeks. Then, on Thanksgiving day, we finally brought our special boy home. Everyday was full of surprises and worry, but then also full of so much love and happiness. A heart baby is at high risk for catching anything from a basic cold to RSV, and if they do catch any virus, it hits them one thousand times harder than a healthy baby. Needless to say, we stayed home a lot and made our home as fun and exciting as possible, as there were not too many places we could go.

By the time Francesco was 3 months old, he was starting to struggle and after an ER visit and one week in the hospital, the doctors decided it was time for his second open heart surgery. Francesco's recovery after this surgery was difficult, we thought we almost lost our baby boy. Thanks to lots of prayers and the expertise of his doctors, we were blessed to bring our son home once again safe and sound.

It may seem as though our son was just a sick kiddo, but he couldn't have been more the opposite. I've never seen a happier little boy with the most contagious laugh and brighter blues eyes to light up any room. He was the perfect mix of a silly goofball, but with the sweetest personality. If anyone could appreciate the little things in life like fresh air, long walks and Mickey Mouse, it was Francesco. His patience, happiness, and strength made us the most proud parents. I've never looked up to anyone more than my son, he is our FOREVER hero.

We enjoyed the next several months watching him make huge milestones like getting rid of his feeding tube, sitting up, and interacting with friends and family. Moments we prayed for daily were finally happening before our eyes. Sure, there were still doctor appointments and hospital stays, but when you have a heart baby those are just considered "tune ups". We made the best out of every situation, grateful for every memory made, and couldn't have loved our son and our life any more! We were the Three Mouseketeers :)

In October 2011 we celebrated Francesco's 1st birthday! That day was incredible. Reflecting on the past 12 months what Francesco had been thru, and more importantly fought thru! We'll always cherish that video of singing happy birthday to him and reflecting on the miracle that he is. That fall was a special time for us. We enjoyed the simplicity of just being outside in our neighborhood and going for long walks. When winter came Francesco lost interest in eating a little but was more than happy for me to syringe him his milk, so for us, not so unordinary. He then started showing some other signs that maybe his heart or lungs would need another "tune up", and early morning on December 13th, 2011 we went in to the ER once again. It's extremely difficult to walk through this next month, but let's just say it was a roller coaster ride, the most terrifying kind, and on January 7th, 2012 the Lord decided our son had been through enough and gave him his angel wings. We were beyond devastated and completely broken. Our worst nightmare had come true, and there are no words that can describe that pain, or the pain that we feel everyday without seeing those beautiful blue eyes, or hearing that contagious laugh. We may not physically be with him right now, but he is EVERY single moment in our hearts.


What can we do when the higher power has chosen our path and we are angry and broken? We have to make a change! We decided that we would do everything in our power to help increase the survival rates, and better the quality of lives for children born with heart defects like our angel Francesco. These special kids deserve the opportunities in life that healthy kids have. We promised our son we would continue his fight, and that is exactly what we are doing.

In June of 2012 we founded "Cesco's Heart". We are a non-for profit organization, and 100% of our proceeds go to Advocate Children's Hospital. Advocate Children's Hospital is where our son had both of his heart surgeries, several procedures, and where his cardiologists cared for him, along with so many other pediatric cardiology patients who come from around the world. Our funds go specifically to support the research and advanced treatments for pediatric cardiology. We are an official philanthropic organization for Advocate Children's Hospital as well as members of their President's Society.

The cardiac team at Advocate Children's Hospital is like family to us. Our relationship with them is very special, as we spent four months with Francesco in the hospital not to mention those doctor visits. We enjoy making several visits to the hospital each year. On holidays we go to the hospital and deliver Christmas presents, Easter Baskets, and other goodies to the children spending the holidays in the hospital. Even if it just brightens their day for a moment, or keeps them busy for a few hours, we as parents of a sick child know how important and special that is. We put a lot of work into this organization and get the pleasure to share heart warming moments seeing the patients excitement when we visit, but we couldn't do any of this without our supporters!

Every year we hold an annual, family-friendly fundraiser. This last October, we hosted our 10th event!  We were thrilled to see close to 300 people come out to our milestone event and help us celebrate 10 years of giving hope. Our auction was a huge success, and the earnings from the auction along with many generous donations totaled $38,700.00! This means our total contribution to Advocate Children's Hospital in the past 10 years is $246,300.00.

The support that we get each year is overwhelming and inspires us to continue to do more in the fight for our son and all of his "heart buddies". Our gratefulness goes beyond words.

John & Dana Vavalle