Matthew's Hearts of Hope has been keeping a pretty brisk pace.

Founded in 2011 by Marie Hatcher, Matthew's mom, Matthew's Hearts of Hope has been an advocate dedicated to raising awareness to the number one birth defect, congenital heart defects (CHD).

It also offers support to CHD patients and their families and raises funding for research.

Matthew, a Sherman resident, was born in August 2008.

In recent weeks, several Danbury Whalers ice hockey players visited Sherman School.

Soon thereafter, a fundraiser for the program was held at a Whalers game. More than $500 was raised at the event.

In other news, five different Hug-A-Heart pillow projects have been underway since the beginning of 2015.

Just under 1,000 pillows stuffed with poly-fill have been made, thanks to JFK Elementary School in Brewster, N.Y., the Washington Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Sherman School, the Kid Kare Club in New Fairfield and St. Francis Xavier Church's fifth-grade religious education class in New Milford.

Fairfield Processing donated the poly-fill, Clothing Labels 4u donated the tags and JoAnn Fabric offered discounts for the fabric.

"They are a God-sent to the kids in the hospital," said MHOH friend Allison Heffer, a child-life specialist on the cardiac floor at Children's Hospital of New York

She sees the pediatric heart patients when they come down from the hospital's intensive care unit.

"They bring a smile to their faces and they help their recovery process go faster," she said.

In Washington, Girl Scouts troops #40226 and #40285 hosted a "Stuff A Heart" pillow event at Bryan Memorial Town Hall.

The pillow project invited patrons to stuff heart pillows that would be given to children, with a congenital heart defect, following heart surgery.

The pillows comfort the children and allow them to cough with less pain following surgery.

The Girl Scouts provided the material for the 223 pillows. As the kids stuffed, the parents on hand finished sewing the pillows closed.

The event was attended by other area Girl Scouts, including members of New Milford troops 40222,40224, 40236, 40206,40229,40273 and 40271, as well as Wingdale, N.Y. Troop 10330.

Boy Scouts from Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington Troop 465 also contributed their efforts.

Matthew's mother is most appreciative of all the support her family, and those others with CHD, have rceived via Matthew's Hearts of Hope.

"We offer support to families of CHD warriors through the pillow project," Hatcher said, "and also by working on mandated pulse oximetry screening which helps to raise awareness to the number one birth defect."

She noted the program raises money to fund promising CHD research currently in nine pediatric cardiology programs in the northeast, including Boston Children's Hospital, Children's Hospital in New York and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

For more information or to learn how to help, visit www.matthewsheartsofhope.org.

Deborah Rose