Zipper Strong Project raises awareness for children with CHD

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The Children’s Heart Foundation said 40,000 babies are born with Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) every year.
 
Now, a Winchester woman is using her talents to get others to better understand what it is. 
 
Seven-year-old, Emily, and nine-year-old, Silas, have something in common. They both have a zipper. Not the type of zipper on a pair of jeans, but the one on their chest. 
 
“One out of 100 babies is affected by Congenital Heart Defect,” said Erin Thompson, Silas’s mom.
 
SheRae Hunter is a photographer that takes pictures of children with CHD.
 
“It’s really difficult to explain to someone who does not have a child who is special what it’s like to have that, and what their life is like,” she said. 
 
That’s why, through her lens, she shares their stories and started the Zipper Strong Project.
 
“The long term goal of Zipper Strong is to make sure that these families get these memories of their kids being proud of who they are,” Hunter said.
 
She showcases their battle scars, so others can see what they can see.
 
“They’re happy, goofy, silly [and] fun. They have their personalities, and they don’t let the CHD rule them,” she said.
 
SheRae met these families through Mended Little Hearts, an organization that connects families who have children with CHD.
 
“It made me cry, because it is so special that someone, a professional, would take time out of their busy schedules to do this for free for our children,” Thompson said.
 
“I’m so happy I met her. I’m so happy about what she does for our kids [and] for our families. She’s brought me together with other Heart Moms, which is really nice, to discuss things that most people don’t understand. We are our own little family,” Hunter added. 
 
As the future plan of the Zipper Strong Project, SheRae is looking to build a team of photographers that can gift free sessions to families before their children go into surgery.
 
“As a photographer, in the end, we’re just in the business of making memories. That’s what I wanted to do for the families through the Zipper Strong Project,” Thompson said.
 
“Unless you see she has a low cut shirt on, you don’t know that there’s anything wrong with her. I think that it’s kind of nice for the public to see her scar and know that she’s been through a lot. I teach her to be proud of it. You fought to be here,” Hunter said.

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