JimThompsonJames A. Thompson, MD, is a board-certified pediatric cardiologist at the Inova Children’s Heart Program and the founder of the StarKid 5K and Family Fun Run, an annual event benefitting the program. Read Dr. Thompson’s profile.

On Sunday, June 5, I’ll be joining hundreds of other runners and walkers for the 10th Annual StarKid 5K and Family Fun Run at Fairfax Corner Shopping Center. When I started the race a decade ago, I had no idea how important and exciting this annual event would become.

One of the highlights is having the chance to run alongside so many of our (now-healthy) former patients and their families.

Years ago, for instance, I treated a brother and a sister who were both born with holes in their hearts. Every year, the siblings come out to run and raise money for the program, along with a huge team of their family, friends and neighbors.

PrintA Community Celebration

I started the StarKid event to raise funds for the Inova Children’s Heart Program. Physical activity is so important for keeping hearts healthy, so a race just made sense.

At the first event in 2006, we had a few hundred runners – and I think most of them were my friends and neighbors! Last year, more than 1,600 runners and walkers participated, and we raised nearly $150,000 for the Children’s Heart Program.

You don’t have to be a runner to participate, though. In addition to the 5K race, the event includes a short run for little kids, plus food, face painting and other fun activities.

While many of our former pediatric heart patients come to the event, we also welcome families who have lost children to congenital heart disease. What started as just a fundraiser has turned into a community-wide celebration of our patients and the work we do caring for children with congenital heart disease.

A Decade of Medical Advances in Pediatric Heart Care

The race isn’t all that’s changed in the last decade. Pediatric heart care has evolved as well. We’re now using less invasive catheterization techniques to replace some procedures that once required open-heart surgery, for instance. (With catheterization, we can access the heart via a thin tube inserted into an artery instead of open surgery.) As a result, the surgical team now focuses on more complex cases.

Pediatric heart specialists have also started looking beyond the heart over the last 10 years. We’re doing a better job considering other aspects of a patient’s health, such as nutrition and at-home care. By taking a bigger-picture view, we’re really improving the quality of our young patients’ lives.

Donations Make a Difference

The Inova Children’s Heart Program is one of the most successful programs in the mid-Atlantic region. In fact, Inova Children’s Hospital was named one of the top 50 in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report. We provide specialized heart care to kids of all ages, and our surgeons perform hundreds of heart surgeries on young children every year.

Providing state-of-the-art care to our patients isn’t cheap. Pediatric heart programs are not moneymakers, and they don’t survive without charitable donations. Every dollar donated makes a difference to what we do, and that’s why I’m so proud of StarKid’s success.

Most of the money we’ve raised from the event over the years has gone toward purchasing new equipment and providing education to ensure our doctors, nurses, technicians and other cardiac staff are trained in the newest technologies and techniques.

For the 10th year in a row, I’ll be out running on June 5. I’m not as fast as I used to be thanks to a knee injury, but I’m still thrilled to be out there supporting our program, our young patients and their families.

Learn more about the StarKid 5K and Family Fun Run and register to participate.

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