NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Queens community of Howard Beach had been rooting for little Valentina Allen’s recovery – but she didn’t make it, and now the neighborhood is rallying around her grieving parents.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, Valentina’s heard defect touched the hearts of many. You cannot help but notice the color red everywhere in Howard Beach, and if you ask about it, you’ll learn about a little girl who made a big impact.
“She came out fighting,” said Valentina’s mother, Danielle Allen. “She was so strong, I mean, up until the end.”
Valentina, who only lived to be 2 years old, had a rare birth defect. She was born with half a heart.
Her parents publicly chronicled her fight through three surgeries, and soon it seemed everyone was rooting for Valentina.
“The motto was half the heart, but twice the fight — and she really did,” said Valentina’s father, Ryan Allen.
“She really was everybody’s baby,” Danielle Allen added. “Everybody really wanted her to succeed; fight through it. “
But complications from surgery had devastating results. Valentina lost her fight two weeks ago.
Hundreds of neighbors released red balloons at Valentina’s funeral, and now, neighbors have painted the town red.
“We were in tears for about 20 minutes driving around the neighborhood, looking at all the red balloons and the red ribbons and the red bows – because it’s all for our little Valentina,” Ryan Allen said.
“Her story just touched so many people, and it’s just overwhelming to see the community come together,” added Justine Orr, the manager of Gold’s Gym of Howard Beach.
Red ribbons sold by the hundreds at Gold’s Gym, raising money and awareness for the congenital defect called hypoplastic left heart syndrome. It strikes one in 10,000 babies.
Doctors at the North Shore LIJ Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park said the syndrome was once inevitably a fatal condition. But now, they are rebuilding hearts with promising results.
“There are some limitations as to what people can do, but if they’re non-syndromic, many of them have gone on to even have children,” said Dr. Rubin Cooper, chief of pediatric cardiology at the hospital.
And while the hope is gone for Valentina, a community’s true colors have been shown in its place.
“I feel like you have a neighborhood grieving with you,” said Danielle Allen.
“You never really prepare yourself to bury a child, but we’re not alone,” added Ryan Allen. “We have an entire community.”
The Allens know the ribbons won’t stay up forever, but the gesture has already touched their hearts. They said it shows Team Valentina is more than one family — it’s one community.
Ribbons and other fundraisers for Valentina have already raised $120,000 for research into congenital heart defects.