Noah Bella Michaelis may seem like your ordinary 12-year-old. She loves her pet dog, Finn, and pet tortoise, Escher; enjoys reading and collects miniature figurines. She was born with complex congenital heart disease and has had four open-heart surgeries since birth, but what is really extraordinary about Michaelis is her spirit.
This indefatigable sixth grader has raised more than $65,000 for the Hopeful Hearts Foundation – a nonprofit that provides financial support for families of children with congenital heart disease (CHD) and raises awareness and funds for research – through a fundraiser she calls Noah’s Festival of Life. This carnival-like festival in the Michaelis’ back yard celebrates life and gratitude among friends and family with games and cotton candy, a silent auction and a raffle.
Michaelis’ motivation is simple. “It is an amazing feeling to know that someone you don’t know cares about you,” she says. “When I first received a gift package from the Hopeful Hearts Foundation, I experienced an overwhelming amount of love. Pure TLC.” Knowing she wasn’t alone also helped make everything less scary. Determined to give back, Michaelis continues giving through her festival and by selling lemonade to raise money for her favorite charities. Her work has helped more than 100 families to date.
She keeps busy with her online school and her friends, and while she never forgets that she lives with CHD, she doesn’t let that stop her from enjoying life. “I can never be a regular tween, but I can participate in some fun activities that other tweens do with each other like going to the movies, a day at the beach or the zoo,” says Michaelis. She also encourages other families to share their stories, and to follow her journey at www.noahsfestivaloflife.com.