By Nick Brothers
With every lap in the pool, every mile by bicycle and every strenuous step in the children’s triathlon early Saturday morning at the Fayetteville Athletic Center, Owen, Evan, Eli and Max Likins ran for the futures of five children.
Six boys from Texarkana, Texas, have teamed up with Samaritan’s Purse and the Children’s Heart Project to fund for the needed heart surgeries of five children in Mongolia, Honduras, Uganda and Bolivia, where heart surgery isn’t feasible.
“These boys have really blessed us,” said Cindy Bonsall, director of the Children’s Heart Project. “And I’m quoting the boys here, they said ‘because we have been blessed with strong hearts, we will race for those with weak hearts.’”
At each triathlon the boys compete in, Owen, 12, Evan, 10, Eli, 8, and Max, 7, wear neon yellow shirts that read “5 Races for 5 Hearts.” The shirts have helped raise some awareness of their fundraising and get a lot of people asking about what they’re doing, said Susan Likins, the boys’ mother.
Mike Beck, missions pastor for First Baptist Church in Texarkana and father of two of the boys, organized the races this summer for the boys to learn the power of giving back. So far, the group has raised about $2,000 in donations, or enough to fund a surgery for one child with a congenital heart defect — having the disease from birth.
“It’s important we as adults give back a lot. I wanted the kids to understand that there’s more than just getting a trophy,” Beck said. “They don’t satisfy you, it’s not everything. This gives them a little more purpose, and I wanted them to understand.”
If interested in helping fund the six kid triathletes to their $10,000 goal for Children’s Heart Project, visit the families’ donation site at firstgiving.com/fundraiser/5racesfor5hearts.
Samaritan’s Purse started in 1970 by Franklin Graham during the organization’s relief efforts in Bosnia.
Since developing the Children’s Heart Project in 1997, Samaritan’s Purse has helped over 1,000 children with life-saving surgeries. With the money collected, funds will pay for transportation of the child, mother and an interpreter to a participating hospital in North America. Through partnerships with local churches, a volunteer host group hosts the child for five weeks while undergoing surgery, Bonsall said.
Heart surgeries are done pro bono by the participating hospitals. Depending on what defect the children have, the surgery can run between $25,000 to $125,000 per case. Transportation for the child and other various fees cost about $2,000 per child on average.
The children who would benefit from the program would die without the help of North American hospitals, Bonsall said. The children who receive aid range from 6 months to 18 years, many having never been able to work or go to school themselves.
“Even helping one child is still helping one child and that would make a huge difference,” Bonsall said. “I see that more and more now — seeing these young people give back. I think that’s a pretty incredible thing to see.”
While Beck’s two sons were unable to make it out to the triathlon this past Saturday, the Likins boys were able to compete. Owen said that even though he’s been doing triathlons for a while now, they’ve gotten to be more fun now that they’re doing them for a reason.
CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Cindy Bonsall’s name was incorrectly spelled. Samaritan’s Purse started in 1970, and the Children’s Heart Project started in 1997.