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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Email Update from Greg

Good evening, friends and family.  It is seems impossible that I have not sent an email to this group since last July, but I think that is the case.  I know some of you are subscribed to our blog ( and get updates as they’re posted, but many of you are not, so I wanted to be sure to update you on the foundation.  I have also added some folks to the list.  There are many events coming up this year that we wanted to make you aware of so you can mark your calendars.

First of all, as you may know, it was Oakes’ 2nd birthday a week ago today.  Our family celebrated by visiting St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) and presenting a large donation of toys, books, mats (for playing w/your baby on the ground; these are in HIGH demand there), a bunch of boppies (again, a very high demand item in the CICU) and, of course, cupcakes for the staff.  Little did I know, they had two surprises for us.  One, was a gorgeous and delicious cake that Kym Galbraith made for us, complete with the MOHF tree logo on top (Kym is starting a cake business on the side which will be incredibly successful!)  After some cake, a few of the staff took us to a crosswalk that connected a couple buildings on the campus.  They said they had tried to think of a great gift for Oakesie’s birthday and then Kym asked us to look down from the crosswalk.  There, in the middle of a gorgeous lawn of grass was a newly-planted white oak tree, complete with heart and star ornaments dangling in the rain.  It was Oakesie’s Oak Tree!  Somehow, the CICU staff had received approval from SLCH’s board and Washington University Medical Center to plant a tree in Oakes’ honor.  There is a perfect sign in front of the tree that reads “In celebration if the precious life of Oakes “Oaksie” Lee Ortyl.  A teacher and a brave, spirited warrior.”  I couldn’t have said it any better.  Of course, this was an extremely emotional moment, a crazy emotional few days, in fact, as his birthday approached.  The location is perfect as it sits directly under Room 9 in the CICU, Oakes’ home for much of his life.  The tree is visible from Room 9 and several other rooms in the CICU.  A white oak tree can live for 300-400 years.  I told Isla that she can take her kids and grandkids to the tree some day and tell them about their Uncle Oakes.  As much as I was dreading the day as it approached, the gift that the staff and hospital gave to us made March 10, 2013 one of the best days of my life.  It was awesomely perfect!  And we cannot thank them enough.  Pictures, of course, are attached.

Ok, now on to the event list.  The first couple require some action fairly fast if you want to participate.  So, let me throw some bullets at you all here:

·         GO! Marathon on April 7th in St. Louis.
o   Rob and Sarah Skinner, friends and new neighbors, had the idea to have a Mighty Oakes GO! Marathon team. 
o   Rob, Sarah and several other of our friends are rounding people up and convincing (coercing, bribing, demanding!) them to run.  There are even options to run smaller segments of a marathon and team with others to accumulate the 26 miles.
o   The team is getting their friends and family to donate to their team and all proceeds are going to MOHF.
o   Also, we are selling very sharp-looking, red, dry-fit MOHF shirts that all the GO! participants will wear.
o   To order a shirt or to join the team, go to our blog ( for all of the details, including a picture of the shirt and how to order.  The blog entry will be about the third one down, so you’ll have to scroll just a bit.  The shirts are $20 each and to get the shirts made in time, the last day to order these shirts is Wednesday, March 20th.
·         Congenital Heart Night at the Ballpark – Greg Ortyl throws out ceremonial first pitch – on Saturday, May 18th at Busch Stadium around 5:15pm (an hour before the “real” first pitch).
o   In a most humbling experience, I was asked by Lena Morsch, a member of the Adult Congenital Heart Association and a survivor of a congenital heart defect herself, to throw out the first pitch at Congenital Heart Night.  Lena has been following our story and she has become a good friend over the last couple of years.  I, of course, said yes.  I cannot wait to honor Oakes with Isla at my side on the field.
o   No, I am not practicing.  I refuse to.  By the time they put me in front of the mound so I don’t mess it up, I’ll be 55 feet or less from the 5th outfielder who will draw the shortest straw to catch my throw.  I’ll be fine.
o   We have been asked to sell a few hundred tickets and we have also created fun MOHF/Cardinals gear since the Cardinals have approved of MOHF using their logo.
o   So two ways to participate:
§  Go to, click “To reserve your tickets now” and sign up for tickets and/or shirts/hats (and of course, we have adult AND kids sizes).
§  Go to if you only want to purchase shirts/hats.
o   The game is 60 days away, so we don’t have much time to get tickets sold and distributed.  Once your order is placed, we’ll be putting packages together and shipping them to you (that price is included in your purchase).
o   A couple classic pictures of my family and the Cardinals are attached as well, including the one time Oakes was outside in his last 11 months, when we were able to visit the hospital’s garden on the eighth floor.  Yes, Oakesie was the reason we won it all in 2011!
·         Rock n’ Roll Marathon on October 27th in St. Louis.
o   My sister, Shani, is rounding up a team for this marathon.  Isn’t there a beer-drinking fundraiser we can do?  Why do we have to run until we pass out?  I’ll have to work on that….
o   Keep close to the blog for all of the details.
·         2nd Bi-Annual Dinner-Auction event.
o   Most of you attended or, undoubtedly, heard about our first dinner-auction, the Planting A Seed event held in November of 2011.  There was less than 100 days or so to plan that event, but it was a booming success and the most fun I have ever had at an auction like that.  Of course, most of the credit goes to Ellen Moriarty for managing that event and we had dozens of friends and family help us to raise well over $100k that night.  That was just a warm-up.  This time we have over six months to plan.
o   We are still solidifying a date, but it will be in the first couple weeks of November, 2013, so keep that in mind as we get our ducks in a row.  It will be held in a fabulous, St. Louis landmark location and we hope to bring in over 300 attendees (up from 180 in 2011).
o   We have SO MUCH great information to share – families we have helped, friends we have made, nurses we have spoiled – and we can’t wait for this event!  Stay tuned for more on this….

That is all for now, but there are a couple other great events in the works, but it is too early to announce at this point.  I promise I will not barrage you all with emails, but I will keep you posted on our successes and our upcoming events.  Thanks for listening tonight and thanks for all of your love and support.


Greg, Becky, Isla Ortyl
Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation

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