Going to the plate for Owen

Benefit is scheduled for 7-year-old with heart disease


Thursday, June 7, 2007


SPENCER— The challenge of first grade is daunting enough for most children, but the obstacles 7-year-old Owen Huard has faced and overcome are immeasurable.

And then there’s the disappointment of watching classmates go out to the playground for recess, while he spends the time in the music room of the Lake Street School.

Today, Owen, once again hospitalized at Children’s Hospital in Boston with heart-related problems, might well wish he were sitting in Anne Mulrain’s classroom at the Lake Street School.


Owen Huard

"Owen worked just as hard as any of the other students. He wouldn’t give up."

Anne Mulrain,

He had enjoyed a very successful school year until about a month ago, his teacher said.

Sheree L. Jolicoeur, school nurse at Lake Street and a clinical health specialist, said that Owen, born with congenital heart disease — a malformed left side of the heart — developed complications this winter. In April and May, he had two cardiac catheterizations to relieve his distress, she said.

While his recovery from the procedures was uneventful, Ms. Jolicoeur said, Owen’s problems continue, and he is now retaining fluid and having trouble breathing — symptoms common to congestive heart failure.

Because Owen’s mother, Molly Huard, had to take a leave of absence from her full-time job at a CVS pharmacy in Marlboro to be with her son, the Huard family has experienced physical, emotional and now financial strain. She and Owen’s father are separated.

Given Owen’s story, it should come as no surprise that North Brookfield’s vaudevillian, octogenarian and friend of those in need should step up to the plate.

Richard “Dick” Fiske, founder of the Heart-to-Heart Foundation, will take time away from his beloved summer activity — pitching in league softball games — to bring his troupe and friends together for a fundraiser for the Huard family.

It’s uncertain whether Owen will be present for the June 24 show in the auditorium of David Prouty High School, Ms. Jolicoeur said, given his medical condition.

The show, with a 2 p.m. start, will feature Charlie Lask of Ware as Neil Diamond, Donna Lee Honeywell of Ware as Patsy Cline, the David Prouty Concert Band, dancers from the Dana Willitts Dance Center in Cherry Valley and other acts.

From 12:30 to 2 p.m. there will be music, raffles, games and snacks. All proceeds will help the family.

Tickets for the fundraiser are $8 and are available at all schools in the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District as well as the Spencer Savings Bank.

Mrs. Huard said of Owen, “He has a great attitude. We know other kids with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and they’re doing well, so we’re hoping this is just a bump in the road.”

She said Life Flight is on standby, so if Owen exhibits particular symptoms, and they need to get to Children’s Hospital quickly, the helicopter can be called.

Mrs. Huard said family members living close by are helping out, but the task of keeping a family of four boys going is a daunting task.

Ms. Mulrain said Owen has been an excellent student.

“Despite his heart condition, Owen worked just as hard as any of the other students. He wouldn’t give up, even after I noticed that he needed a break and would suggest that, he would keep plugging on,” she said.

As Owen’s teacher, she said, she had to monitor his fluid intake, making sure he was drinking enough, making certain he was using the bathroom, and limiting his physical activity — both in gym and at recess.

“He wanted to be outside with his classmates, of course,” Ms. Mulrain said.

Additionally, she said, she had to carry a walkie-talkie so that at any given moment, if Owen’s condition warranted it, she could summon Mrs. Jolicoeur.

Ms. Mulrain said Owen missed about a month’s worth of school this year, but kept up with the work at home and is more than adequately prepared for second grade.