NOBODY would guess that five-year-old Molly Neeson has endured open heart surgery, but the plucky prep student has overcome serious health challenges in her young life and is determined to help others do the same.
She has been busy this month selling bracelets in support of HeartKids Sweetheart Day, which is held each year on Valentine's Day.
HeartKids Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that provides support and information for families of children who have congenital heart defects.
Molly's mum Jacinta Neeson said her daughter had been born with two holes in her heart and had open heart surgery at just three months old.
"It was quite a surprise - we didn't find out there was anything wrong with her heart until after she was born," she said.
"It was missed on all of the scans. We were in the process of being discharged from hospital when a student nurse heard Molly's heart murmur."
Ms Neeson said she and her husband Gavin were very anxious about Molly's surgery and had never heard of the HeartKids organisation until they needed support and the charity reached out to them.
Molly was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect and atrial septal defect and pulmonary stenosis.
"They came and visited us in hospital and said there would be ongoing support for Molly and it provided peace and calm in the middle of the storm," Ms Neeson said.
"In a sense we are very lucky because Molly hasn't needed any ongoing surgeries, but knowing that support would be there was really important to us."
A spokeswoman for HeartKids said congenital heart disease was the leading cause of death of Australian babies.
The aim of Sweetheart Day was to raise aims funds and awareness for the eight babies born every day in Australia with a heart defect.
Molly is among the organisation's young helpers who have been selling and delivering bracelets to family, friends, and workplaces to raise understanding of the issues.
She has sold 100 of the Heartkids bracelets so far.
"We've always been open with Molly about the scar on her chest from the surgery and she's very proud of it," Ms Neeson said.
"She knows it's a sign of how brave she was and she will happily explain to people how she got it."
The three offices will host a Sweetheart Day fundraising event, with staff members wearing HeartKids colours and bracelets and generating donations.
The company's head office in Warrnambool has also promised to match dollar for dollar all the funds raised by WDEA staff today. Donations can also be made online.
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