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Founder of Happy Hearts Project Heidi Burns and Head of Development Jenny Sato pose during an event for Project Happy Hearts. Photo: Courtesy

By Kristina Pritchett

What started as a humble apparel line, Project Happy Hearts has blossomed into a local organization that spreads happiness throughout the community.

Heidi Burns, a Dana Point native, created Project Happy Hearts to spread good cheer, but also to create awareness about congenital heart disorders. Sales of clothes—primarily women’s and babies’ apparel—go toward granting wishes to children with congenital heart defects (CHD) as well as CHD-related organizations. February, by the way, is Heart Health Month.

Burns was born with congenital heart defects, which she deals with on a daily basis even as she’s now in her 20s.

“It’s kind of crazy to be running a company,” Burns said. “It’s awesome because it motivated me, not only to keep fighting but to help save others. I think that I continually practice what I preach, and overall it helps me be in a better place.”

In 2014, Burns underwent a surgery where her heart had to be removed from her body to undo a myocardial bridge, a condition where one of the coronary arteries is incorrectly aligned. After that surgery, her life was changed and staying positive was key—out of that, Project Happy Hearts was created.

In its third year, Burns said the company is focusing on a few main goals. She said they want to raise awareness, give back to people fighting the disease and make sure everyone has a little bit of happiness every day.

“Heart disease does not have nearly enough awareness for being (a major) killer,” Burns said.

This year, the group transitioned into a 501(c)(3), but Burns said they are still running the organization in “super business format.”

“We don’t get grants, and we don’t rely on donors,” Burns said. “We sell our apparel online and in yoga studios all over the country. That’s how we make a lot of our money.”

The company is giving back to others by creating care packages for kids and making sure families have financial support, which are things they’ve done in the past. But, moving forward, they will be going into a doctor’s appointment to surprise a heart patient.

“When I was growing up, going to the heart doctor was very scary and it’s not fun. It’s not a special day,” Burns said. “We want to give back; everyone just needs a little speck of happiness, especially since they’re fighting so hard.”

The company has been working with University of California, San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals and individual families at Children’s Hospital of Orange County and Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Another goal moving forward is for the organization to set up free heart screenings at businesses and schools.

For more information about the organization, visit www.projecthappyhearts.com.

Heidi Burns, from Dana Point, is finding happiness as an entrepreneur, sharing a positive message inspired by surviving two surgeries to correct her congenital heart defect. Burns is shown here at USC where she is studying social entrepreneurship. Photo: Madi Swayne

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