Out of terrible sorrow a decade ago has sprung a movement, a charitable foundation and a family whose dedication to pediatric health crosses state lines and brings communities together.
Jayden DeLuca would be so proud.
The little girl, who would have been 12 this year, died Feb. 27, 2007, at 2 of pediatric heart disease. She was born with a congenital heart condition known as a single ventricle. In her short life, she underwent two major open heart surgeries and multiple medical procedures.
Her parents, Karalie DeLuca and Jeremy DeLuca, a co-founder of Bodybuilding.com with his brother, Ryan, have been tireless supporters of research and pediatric health programs in the years following their daughter’s death. The family is now crusading for research, and playing a significant role in the creation of the new St. Luke’s Children’s Pavilion, now under construction.
“Jayden, and our experiences with her, left more of an impact in my life than anyone I have ever met,” Karalie DeLuca said. “She gave me such a purpose in life — first as a mother, then as a voice for her while she was with us, and even more of a voice now that she is gone.”
The Jayden DeLuca Foundation was established in 2008 to support families faced with cardiac diseases and pediatric heart conditions. The foundation has done so through multiple fundraising events, including golf tournaments, benefits with local businesses and sports organizations and what have become annual social events in Boise and Denver. In addition to the organization’s close collaboration with St. Luke’s, the foundation works actively in children’s health in Colorado, where Jayden also received care.
The Jayden DeLuca Foundation Masquerade Ball, now in its seventh year, benefits St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital. Fittingly, organizers stage the event in February, American Heart Month; this year’s event will take place Feb. 25 at The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise. St. Luke’s supports the foundation and the event; the organization benefits from St. Luke’s Community Health Improvement Fund sponsorship.
“We know that by donating to St. Luke’s, our dollars are going toward something that is helping people,” DeLuca said. “We have been working with St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital since the beginning. We chose them first off because it was our local hospital, and it was also the place where Jayden received many of her treatments. They knew her and loved her.
“As I began to get more involved with the hospital, I realized that I was now working with a group of people that had the same mission as me — to make a difference. The partnership between JDF and St Luke’s is an easy one to have and maintain because we are all working toward the same goal — everyone wants to do anything they can just to help, just because it’s the right thing to do.”
The organization started in the days after Jayden’s death as undirected grief and an outpouring of sympathy for the mourning young family.
“When we started the JDF, we had no idea what to expect,” DeLuca said. “It began as a simple donation page on the American Heart Association website that raised over $75,000 in the first week.
“When we saw that, we realized that we could really help others.”
As the foundation has grown, it has increasingly directed its efforts toward specific needs and challenges.
“It began as a way to cope with a tragedy, a way to bring something good out of something so terrible,” she said. “In the beginning, we just wanted to help in any way that we could. Now, we have a larger vision — specific projects that we are focusing on that help with detection, prevention and treatment” of congestive heart disease.
Launching and growing the foundation has been every bit as life-changing as was her time with her daughter, DeLuca observed.
“I have learned, first and foremost, that no one is immune to the bad things that happen in life,” she said. “No one gets a free pass in life.”
The foundation, she believes, has built a legacy for her daughter. Has she been changed by the work?
“Absolutely,” DeLuca said. “Zero question. To work on something bigger than yourself would make anyone’s life better.”
Learn more, get involved
The Jayden DeLuca Foundation Masquerade Ball takes place starting at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at The Grove Hotel in downtown Boise. The semi-formal event includes raffles and auction packages, and organizers encourage guests to consider masks in keeping with the spirit of the evening. Tickets cost $100 per person and $150 for couples, and are available through the foundation’s website.
For more information, contact the foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org
St. Luke’s patients, employees, physicians, board members and others have helped achieve 75 percent of the fundraising goal toward the Children’s Pavilion. Community support is essential to achieving the needed funds to make the project a reality by early 2019.
To support the Children’s Pavilion, contact St. Luke's Health Foundation, 190 E. Bannock St., Boise, 83712, (208) 381-2123, or email@example.com
Roya Camp is managing editor and executive communications coordinator for St. Luke’s Health System.