Put kids, dogs and firefighters in the same place, and you’re guaranteed to experience nonstop cuteness and charm. At Little Hearts Luncheon & Fashion Show, it’s augmented even further when you know the kids are past heart patients, the dogs are part of the Children’s Hospital Colorado pet-therapy program, firefighters remain our heroes—and because funds raised from the luncheon go to the Children’s Hospital Colorado Heart Institute. No wonder the event has continued to grow in its 31 years of existence. This year Little Hearts sparkled once again on Friday, April 15, with more than 400 guests who enjoyed a delightful weekday respite at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum.

Representing sponsor First American State Bank in style

Representing sponsor First American State Bank in style

The event began with a busy silent auction and reception, and music provided by singer-keyboardist Charlotte Sass. Kids had the added bonus of meeting beautiful Denver Broncos mascot, Thunder, just outside the museum’s entrance. In a convivial atmosphere, doctors, former patients and families, sponsors and supporters all mingled together with hugs and laughter. As guests enjoyed a tasty lunch provided by Biscuits & Berries, emcee Kim Christiansen took the stage to preside over the afternoon program. Sara Mark, D.V.M., was completely surprised as the recipient of the inaugural Maxwell Doud Paws of Praise Award (Maxwell is a lovable Bernese Mountain service dog); and for his wellness-program efforts, CHC pediatric cardiologist Jeff Darst, M.D., was honored with this year’s Fern Primack Heart Who Cares Award. Event chair Lyn Schaffer recognized sponsors and volunteers for their assistance and support, as well as Mark Neff, who underwent heart surgery at CHC 60 years ago and traveled from Texas to attend this event.

Izabella strikes a pose in her pretty spring dress.

Izabella strikes a pose in her pretty spring dress.

The accompanying fashion show, with apparel provided by Dillard’s, featured CHC pediatric heart patients escorted by South Metro Fire Rescue and Denver Fire firefighters, plus well-known personalities such as Colorado’s former First Lady Frances Owens and society editor-reporter Joanne Davidson, as well as doctors and family members. Several were also accompanied by adorable dogs from the CHC Prescription Pet Program. As models hit the runway, Christiansen told the story of each one, including her son Tanner as well as that of her sister Keri. Camera phones were required equipment as proud family members and friends recorded their favorite models posing, dancing or just happily waving to guests from the runway.

Children’s Hospital Colorado’s Heart Institute is ranked among the top 20 pediatric hospitals in the nation for heart care and surgery by U.S. News & World Report. It is one of only eight stand-alone pediatric research centers in the nation and one of the fastest-growing pediatric cardiac programs in the country. Its doctors, surgeons and nurses have experience diagnosing and treating all types of heart disease. Because of this expertise, CHC Heart Institute offers a consistent care team for patients, from the developmental years into early adulthood. Special services are offered, such as the Welcome Program, to help families manage their non-medical needs. A multidisciplinary care team ensures all of the services each child may need are in one place. Combining the resources of some of the world’s most qualified and experienced heart specialists, every patient receives a more complete level of care. For more information, please visit: http://www.childrenscolorado.org/departments/heart .

Darby Kelly with Prescription Pet Program participant, Cormac

Darby Kelly with Prescription Pet Program participant, Cormac

The Prescription Pet Program (the first in the nation) is a dog-assisted therapy and visitation initiative that began in 1984 as a cooperative effort of Children’s Colorado and the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society (DAVMS). As part of the program, specially-trained volunteer dog owners take their dogs on rounds at Children’s Colorado. All Prescription Pet dogs have passed a vigorous screening and have been approved by veterinarians who volunteer their time. To learn more, please visit: http://www.childrenscolorado.org/donate-volunteer/volunteer/prescription-pet-program .