The Buffalo Niagara American Heart Association/American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) and Catholic Health are teaming up for Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week, February 7-14. The two groups will host a press conference and photo opportunity on February 13th from 1:30 – 2:00 p.m. at Sisters of Charity Hospital, 2157 Main Street in Buffalo, to highlight “Little Hats, Big Hearts,” a national program to promote family heart health and raise awareness about congenital heart disease, which affects 1 in 100 babies.  

As part of the Little Hats, Big Hearts program, all babies born at Catholic Health’s maternity hospitals – Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Mary’s, and Mercy Hospital of Buffalo – throughout February, will be given a beautiful handmade knitted or crocheted red cap, while their parents will receive important heart health information from the American Heart Association.

The press conference will feature Anthony Pivarunas, D.O., chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology for Catholic Health; Marc Natale, executive director of the Buffalo Niagara American Heart Association; and a local family with their newborn baby wearing his or her own little red hat. The hundreds of hats donated, which were handmade by volunteers across Erie and Niagara County, help serve as a reminder that heart disease affects more Americans than any other medical condition, and congenital heart disease is the most common type of birth defect.

Sisters Hospital, which delivers more babies than any other hospital west of Syracuse, is nearing completion of its new 40-bed Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The $8.8 million project will help the hospital expand care to some of the area’s smallest and sickest babies. “We are seeing advancements in the care of our tiniest patients every day,” said Anthony Pivarunas, D.O., chair of Obstetrics & Gynecology for Catholic Health. “However, it is still important for parents to live heart healthy lives and help their children do the same.”

The Little Hats, Big Hearts program is sponsored nationally by the American Heart Association and The Children’s Heart Foundation to raise awareness about incidence of congenital heart disease and improve care for babies who are affected. Thanks to the advocacy efforts of dedicated AHA/ASA volunteers, all newborns in New York State receive pulse oximetry testing to help detect congenital heart defects before they leave the hospital.

“We are proud to join with Catholic Health to bring the Little Hats, Big Hearts program to the Buffalo Niagara community for the first time and promote lifelong health right from the beginning, as well as offer resources for those families affected by congenital heart disease”, Marc Natale said. “We also would like to thank all the incredible volunteers across Western New York who shared their time and talent to make the hundreds of hats we received.”

Little Hats, Big hearts began in Chicago in 2014. The project has grown to include 660 hospitals in 40 states handing out more than 100,000 hats nationwide. In addition to raising awareness of heart disease and congenital heart defects, Little Hats, Big Hearts also drives awareness for the American Heart Association’s Support Network, an online forum for families affected by heart disease and stroke.

About the Buffalo Niagara American Heart & Stroke Association
The American Heart & Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers in WNY. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The American Heart Association is the nation’s largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved with the Buffalo Niagara affiliate, call 716-243-4600, visit the local website Follow us on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram. #LifeisWhyBuffalo


About Catholic Health

As one of the largest health systems in Western New York, Catholic Health provides safe, high quality care across its network of hospitals, subacute and long term care facilities, primary care centers, home care agencies, and diagnostic & treatment centers. Its hospital network includes Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Mercy Hospital of Buffalo, Mount St. Mary’s Hospital and Sister of Charity Hospital and its St. Joseph Campus. Among its many services, Catholic Health is known for excellence in cardiac care, stroke care, women’s services, orthopedic services, bariatric surgery, vascular surgery and rehabilitation services. To learn more about programs and services available throughout Catholic Health or find a physician, visit or call 716-447-6205.