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City family determined to repay the gift of a child’s life

Cathy Dobson The Viggers family knows the overwhelming sense of relief when a new heart is found for a tiny baby fighting for survival.
Sandi and her mom Diane Viggers, right, hold a photo of their nephew and grandson,who had a heart transplant at nine weeks. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

The Viggers family knows the overwhelming sense of relief when a new heart is found for a tiny baby fighting for survival.

They also know the stress of the seven-hour transplant surgery and the heartache of knowing another baby had died so their own could be saved.

They also know gratitude, doing everything they can to thank the medical staff at The Hospital For Sick Children in Toronto for saving little Nolan Viggers’ life.

As Nolan’s extended family has watched him grow into a healthy, busy three-year-old they’ve rolled up their sleeves to raise as much money as possible so others can be saved.

Nolan’s dad, Stephen, grew up in Sarnia and is a Northern Collegiate grad who works for a software company in Waterloo. His mom, Diane, and sister, Sandi, live in Sarnia and helped create a team of family and friends that raised $13,700 for Sick Kids’ Hospital Foundation last year.

“You’d be surprised at the number of people who depend on Sick Kids. The cardiac unit was over-capacity when we were there,” said Nolan’s mom Claire Viggers.

This year, the team known as Camp NolieWalka is asking the Sarnia community to help raise even more money by holding a number of special events. A Mothers’ Day paint party was a big success and a cruise on the Duc d’Orleans II is planned for July 20.

“Sick Kids’ is just an amazing organization,” said Diane Viggers, Nolan’s grandma. “When he was born only half his heart developed. They almost lost him. He was very, very sick.

“We feel so blessed that they saved Nolan. Every day I think about the family that had such a difficult loss for Nolan to get a transplant.

“I think about organ donation and the incredible work that the doctors and nurses do at that hospital.

“They can’t do it alone. They need our financial support.”

Nolan Viggers was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome before he was born. It’s a rare congenital heart defect that doctors hoped could be fixed with a series of surgeries.

But once the baby was born, it was discovered he had a secondary heart problem and reconstructive surgery wouldn’t work. At five weeks he was placed on a transplant list and given just a few weeks to live without one.

When Nolan was nine weeks old, he received a new heart at Sick Kids.

“He was in the best hands,” said his mom, Claire. “The moment we stepped inside the hospital doors we truly felt everyone there was fighting for Nolan.”

Recovery was slow and the baby was at Sick Kids’ for two more months. But he eventually went home and is thriving.

“He’s a strong, happy and busy boy who amazes us every day,” said his aunt Sandi. “This is why we are fundraising. It is our way of saying thank you to Sick Kids and the amazing team of people who fought for Nolan.”

“I call him my miracle grandson,” said Diane. “He loves life and he’s a sweetheart. It’s been a miracle all along.”

The Viggers family intends to pledge the money raised in Sarnia and walk with their team in Sick Kids’ annual walkathon in September. Nolan plans to be there with his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.

Team NolieWalka’s goal is $20,000 this year. Anyone who wishes to contribute to the hospital foundation on behalf of the team, can visit


WHAT: Fundraising cruise for SickKids’ Foundation in honour of transplant recipient Nolan Viggers. Featuring the music of Brooklyn Roebuck.

WHEN: July 20; 6 p.m. – 9 p.m.

WHERE:  Duc d’Orleans II

TICKETS:  $30. Call Diane or Sandi at 519-542-9758.

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