Board of directors

Jill Teats


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Jill and Michael Teats became proud parents of their first-born child, Emerson, on January 18, 2002. They received Emerson’s diagnosis of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome at Jill’s 20-week prenatal ultrasound. Jill, devastated and attempting to seek the support of other heart parents discovered that no CHD support organizations in Michigan existed. Emerson spent his first four months in the hospital and Jill, desperate for support, continued to search for other heart families going through a similar experience. Not until Emerson was a year old did Jill discover a small group of families living in Michigan that called themselves “Hearts of Hope”. Upon meeting this special group of families, Jill immediately developed a bond and friendship that has grown stronger throughout the years.

Jill, a Registered Nurse, currently working in cardiothoracic I.C.U., helped develop Hearts of Hope into a well established, Michigan based, 501 (c) 3 organization. It has been her passion to help make a difference in the lives of families affected by congenital heart defects and to provide the support that she so desperately searched for in the first year of her son’s life. The Teats’ family lives in Michigan with their two children, Emerson and Lauren, and continue to help raise awareness and impact the congenital heart community.

The Teats' carepage name is MikeJillEmerson (

Karen Corey


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Karen Corey resides in Macomb Township, MI with her husband Wayne and their 12 1/2 year old son, Christian, who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.

Karen grew up in Plymouth, MI and went to college in Southern California and Michigan. She met Wayne at Chrysler, LLC World Headquarters where we they both work. In August of 1997 they were married and began looking forward to having a family.

Karen and Wayne were excited to be having their first child, and on November 16, 2000 their beautiful baby boy, Christian John Sam Corey was born. He was perfect; a gift from God. However, two days after birth Christian showed signs of respiratory distress and the doctors discovered that he had a congenital heart defect known as Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Christian was in critical condition and was immediately transported to the nearest hospital, Children's Hospital of Michigan. The Corey’s were literally thrown into the world of congenital heart defects as Christian’s CHD had gone undiagnosed during Karen’s pregnancy. After 17 days in ICU at CHM and by the grace of God, Christian became stable enough to have his first open-heart surgery. Dr. Hakimi and Dr. Henry Walters performed his four open-heart surgeries.

Hearts of Hope was destined to happen. Shortly, after Christian was discharged from Children's Hospital and life began at home; arrangements were made to have a visiting nurse come weekly to check on Christian. As first time parents, Karen and Wayne had many concerns and questions. During a conversation with the nurse, Karen learned that she was following three other newborn boys who lived in the area that also had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Karen was given hope and no longer felt so alone. She immediately told the nurse to share her contact information with these other three families. It was not long after, that the four mothers and their miracle boys met. They continued to get together for play dates and called each other "Heart Moms". As time went on and as the group of moms grew, they began searching for an "official" name. One evening, while rocking Christian to sleep, Karen thought of the name “Hearts of Hope”. With the support of the HOH Board members and the determination to become official, Hearts of Hope became an official 501(c)(3)non-profit organization in 2005.

Today Christian is a very happy, active and energetic soon to be a “teenager” who will be starting the 7th grade this fall.  Christian plays baseball on Macomb Township little league, his favorite positions to play are pitcher and second base. He loves to swim in his family pool. He is an outdoors guy, his favorite place to be is Uncle Jim’s cabin up North. He's the Corey’s pride and joy and everyone's miracle.

Karen is our Vice-President and remains committed to creating awareness of congenital heart defects. She feels honored and blessed to be involved with the families of Hearts of Hope and looks forward to sharing hope to all those involved in this journey.

The Coreys’ carepage name is Christiansheart (

Julie Pendergast


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Julie and her husband Dan are the proud parents of two boys. Their first son Nicholas, twelve years old was born a healthy baby, pink and perfect at birth and in twelve years only sick with common colds and flus. A healthy baby is something they took for granted and never knew any different until five years later when their son Brandon was born.

When Dan and Julie went for their first ultrasound at 20 weeks their main concern was to find out the sex of their second child. Their concerns changed quickly when they were told their baby boy had a severe heart defect. Their diagnosis was quickly confirmed by a pediatric cardiologist…Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome – HLHS.

Dan and Julie were thrown into a world of the unknown. They were told there was no cure and not much hope. They were given three options…heart transplant, 3 stage heart repair or termination. After weeks of research, speaking to doctors, surgeons, friends and family they chose the three stage repair.

Brandon was born in late December of 2000, and was transported to the University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital. He had his first open heart surgery at 8 days old, his second at 6 months and his third at 2 ½ years old. Brandon did well through all three surgeries and is now six years old. He has had many bumps in the road but is a happy, healthy and very active little boy.

Shortly after Brandon was born Julie met three other moms in her area that had babies with HLHS. These four moms quickly became friends, they relied on each other for support, comfort, understanding and friendship. As their friendship grew so did their group, as they traveled the road they call ‘HLHS’ they came across many other families affected by CHD’s and formed Hearts of Hope SE Michigan.

Brandon has changed the world Dan and Julie live in and is truly a miracle.

Julie remains actively involved with Hearts of Hope and especially enjoys assisting and planning our Hearts of Hope events and fundraisers as well as serving as the official Hearts of Hope Treasurer.

Colleen Schomaker

Member Relations/Grief Support

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Colleen lives in Rochester Hills and is married to Mike. They have 3 children, Matthew, 14 (healthy heart), Tommy, 11 (HLHS/TVR, Heart Transplant) & Genevieve, 8 (Bicuspid Aortic Valve).  In addition to raising her 3 children and volunteering on the board of Hearts of Hope, Colleen is also on the Patient and Family Centered Care Team at U of M C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, serving on various committees, does occasional speaking and visits/supports Mott heart families.

The Schomakers’ carepage name is: ThomasEarl (

Karen Swietlik

Secretary/Membership Director

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Sandy Bilpo

Member Relations/Grief Support

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Sandy and her husband Chris have three children.  Carleigh & Carson, 8 year old twins (both heart healthy) and big brother, Ethan- forever 8 & 1/2 years old (HLHS/PLE). 

Ethan was born November 12, 2000 with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.  He had 3 open heart surgeries between the ages of 3 days old and 3 years old.  Despite slow growth and some eating issues, Ethan lived and led a fairly normal and happy life.  He attended school, played sports, loved music, movies and games.  He especially loved his family and friends and making everyone laugh. 

Shortly after having his fenestration closed at 6 years old, Ethan developed PLE (Protein Losing Enteropathy).  Ethan endured a long, brave battle with treatments, procedures and complications due to the PLE. At this time, there is no known proven effective treatment or cure for PLE.  Ethan earned his angel wings on May 20, 2008.

Sandy continues to be involved with Hearts of Hope.  Her hope is to continue to offer support to other families, like Hearts of Hope has been and continues to be a support to her and her family. 

Hannah Rhodes

Finance Director

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Jason and Hannah Rhodes live in Birmingham, Michigan. In 2006, they were excited to learn that they were expecting their second child. After having a completely healthy son, Andrew, they were not prepared for the devastating news at their 20 week ultrasound that their unborn baby had a 'rare and severe' heart defect, called Ebstein's Anomaly. They began to research congenital heart defects and network with other 'heart families' in the area in order to prepare themselves for what they would face after the baby was born. They were referred to Children's Hospital of Michigan, where they were told that the baby would most likely need a series of 3 surgeries in the first two years of life. On November 17, 2006, Annika Elizabeth was born 11 weeks early due to pregnancy complications that resulted from the heart defect. Her prematurity combined with the heart defect were too much to overcome, and after 12 short days on earth she went to be in heaven.

Jason and Hannah continue to be involved in Hearts of Hope in order to help others that may face the same situation, and also to keep Annika's legacy alive.

The Rhodes’ carepage name is: proverbs3v5 (

Sheila Ruma

Website Director

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Sheila and Matt Ruma are the parents of three sons and two daughters. In April of 2003, at their 20 week ultrasound, they were told that their second son would be born with a heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). They were shocked and overwhelmed but with God’s help and the support of family and friends, they began making preparations for Joshua’s arrival. Their research led them to U of M Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor where they met Dr. Edward Bove, a well known cardiothoracic surgeon, who specializes in HLHS repair.

Nearly a month after receiving Josh’s diagnosis, Sheila’s best friend learned that a former co-worker also had a son with a CHD. Through the Baakko family, Sheila was put in touch with the group of heart moms that would become Hearts of Hope. Prior to Josh’s birth, Sheila was able to meet these mothers and their amazing children. The support and hope they provided proved invaluable.

Joshua was born on the morning of August 15, 2003. His head was covered with black hair and he immediately captured the hearts of his mommy, daddy, and big brother Zach! Four days after his birth, Dr. Bove performed the Norwood procedure and thankfully, Joshua’s recovery was an uneventful one. Dr. Bove also performed Josh’s Hemi-Fontan when Josh was nearly six months and the Fontan at twenty months. Aside from one incident with a pericardial effusion, Josh’s recoveries were relatively uncomplicated.

Since the Fontan, Josh has been doing great! He is a typical eight year old with an incredible amount of energy. He loves to play outside with his siblings and he also enjoys archery and building Legos. The Rumas thank God for each day they get to spend with their miracle boy.

Sheila and Matt are also thankful for the incredible staff at U of M, for the support of their family and friends, and for the amazing heart families they have met along the way. They enjoy meeting families affected by congenital heart defects.

The Rumas’ carepage name is: JoshuaRuma(

Lisa Ziff

Organ Donation Liaison

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In January 2004, Lisa and Adam’s daughter Shay was born. Unknown to them she had a severe and rare congenital heart defect called Restrictive Cardiomyopathy. The Ziff’s were devastated when they heard that the only option for Shay was a heart transplant. Thankfully, Shay received her life saving transplant on May 18, 2004.

During this time Lisa and Adam were contacted by a few members of HOH whose children had been through similar experiences. When Shay was released from the hospital, Lisa suddenly realized that she felt very alone and isolated. She decided to meet several of the “heart moms” for dinner and discovered that it was one of the best decisions she had ever made. Everyone could relate and understand much of what she and Adam had were going through. From that day on Lisa knew she was not alone in this journey and decided that she too wanted to be part of spreading hope to others on the CHD journey.

Today, Shay is doing remarkably well. Shay’s baby sister, Brooke, was born with a healthy heart on May 6, 2007.

Lisa remains actively involved with Hearts of Hope and assists in many different areas including the mailing and distribution of carepackages. She remains committed to creating awareness of congenital heart defects and is also passionate about educating the public of the importance of organ donation.