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The Heart To Run

Featured Photo from The Heart To Run

She faced a cardiac crisis at birth. Today, young Chloe Spencer knows what they say is true: running is good for your heart.

For 10-year-old Chloe Spencer, staying active isn’t just a healthy choice, it’s a privilege. And thanks to Chloe’s school and GROW Central Florida, this young lady has a runner’s heart – in every sense of the word.

When Chloe’s mother, Miranda, compares then-and-now photos of her daughter from a decade ago, she’s struck by how much life for her family has changed.

“Our last 10 years were pretty big,” says Miranda, describing how Chloe was born in Ohio with a serious heart condition.

At birth, Chloe was diagnosed with a number of potentially fatal defects in her aorta. She endured two surgeries at just eight and nine days old and spent weeks in the hospital. The surgeries were a success, and as Chloe grew, doctors encouraged her parents to keep the young heart patient active.

“A healthy heart is a better heart,” says Miranda. “We wanted to make sure Chloe could participate in athletic programs.”

Chloe started with ballet and soccer, but it wasn’t until she and her family moved to Seminole County and attended Woodlands Elementary School that Chloe discovered cross-country running and the many youth wellness programs supported by GROW Central Florida.  

“At the school’s first meet, I was blown away by the kids’ participation and the overall organization,” says Miranda.

Chloe has now been a part of Woodlands Elementary’s running club for two years. Today, she’s joined at her weekly before-school practices by younger sister Peyton, age seven. Chloe’s older sister Shelby, 14, also runs track and cross country at Rock Lake Middle School.

Running has meant so much to Chloe and the Spencer family, Miranda made it a point to contact Colleen Gonzalez, GROW Central Florida’s founder, to thank her personally for the many cross-country programs GROW supports.

Colleen was moved by the gesture. 

“My reaction was tears!” says Colleen. “We put in so many hours trying to raise the needed funds to have the events, setting volunteers up for success, and paying attention to the small details.”

Although Chloe does have a heart murmur, her doctors say she’s free and encouraged to participate in any athletic activity she likes. In addition to running at Woodlands, Chloe plays softball and has tried her hands at gymnastics and hockey. 

Miranda’s photos of Chloe from 10 years ago reflect a time of uncertainty. Today’s pictures show a happy, healthy, fourth grader, standing with her sisters and proudly displaying her race ribbons. 

Each year, Chloe visits the cardiologist to check for complications. Her parents know Chloe’s journey isn’t over, but she’s – quite literally – on the right track.

“We are hopeful that if we monitor it as she grows and keep her active to promote a healthy heart, then we won’t have to worry for a long time,” says Miranda, who volunteers with other members of the Spencer family at GROW’s cross-country meets.

Chloe is getting more competitive, too. She hopes to eventually place in the top 10 of her age group, but Chloe knows her ability to participate at all is more important than her final results.

“I was worried about what she’d be able to do,” says Miranda, “but today I am very proud.” 

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