Making A Difference: Beats for Bella at Whitemarsh Elementary
three students watching a fourth add a thumbprint to a painting


At Whitemarsh Elementary School (WE), they collect food and warm clothes, hold bake sales and raise money for a wide variety of causes. In February, they're working on a project for Beats for Bella, a cause that's personal, especially for one sweet and funny five-year-old.

Bella Borkowski was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome that required three open heart surgeries to fix. She had her final surgery in 2016 and started kindergarten at WE this year with the rest of her peers.

"It's a disease where the left side of your heart is damaged and stuff, so you have to have surgery, and you have a big scar," explained WE second grader Oliver Nasitir.

In honor of Bella, the students at WE are working together to create a piece of art for the Bella of the Ball auction, a fundraising event for Beats for Bella, a foundation put together by Bella's family to help raise money for Congenital Heart Disease research. The painting is a pair of hands creating the shape of a heart. The children are filling in the hands with their fingerprints.

Class holding Valentines


"I picked blue, because it's my favorite color," said second grader Sophia Keaser.

Back in teacher Shana Genkin's kindergarten class, Bella and her classmates created valentines for the children in the cardiac wing at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

"It makes me happy because I know it'll make the kids in the hospital happy," said Robert Bryan.  

While the focus is not on donating things like soup or gloves to help make someone's life easier, the students are learning that doing nice things for other children — especially those in the hospital — is important, too.

Two kids smiling at the camera while working on valentines


"They're kind of like normal; they're kind of us. So if they're us, they deserve to do things like we're doing, also," said Oliver. "That's why doctors help them, so they can have a life like me and you."

The painting will be finished in time for the the Bella of the Ball event, which will be held on March 22 at the Marriott in Conshohocken. Proceeds will go toward continued development of the Fontan Blood Pump, a medical device for patients with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.