Positive Outreach
By Katie Allen Berlandi

Find a Need and Fill It

My grandmother Peale loved and–I can confirm–lived by the phrase, “Find a need and fill it.”

As you might imagine, there are many examples of my grandparents Ruth Stafford Peale and Norman Vincent Peale finding a need and taking thoughtful, prayerful and collaborative action to do all they could to fill it. Take Marble Collegiate Church in New York. Grandma and Grandpa decided that this church, which was struggling at the time, would be their church home rather than a flourishing church in Southern California.

Take Blanton-Peale Institute and Counseling Center, also in New York, the brainchild of a minister (Grandpa) and a psychiatrist (Dr. Smiley Blanton). This institute is a place of therapeutic training and counseling, where both religion and psychiatry are used to heal lives.

And take Guideposts, the magazine my grandparents founded, filled with first-person true stories of inspiration to give others hope. We all know how impactful that has been!

I’m fortunate to have other people in my life who show me how powerful it is to find a need and fill it. One of those tremendous people is Marie Hatcher. Perhaps you read her story “A Hopeful Heart” in the January 2013 issue of Guideposts, or the update she gave in the “Continued” section of this month’s issue.

Marie is a nurse by training and a mother of three terrific boys. When she was pregnant with her youngest son, Matthew, she and her husband, Mike, learned that Matthew had a very serious congenital heart defect (CHD).

Matthew would need emergency surgery upon birth and many surgical interventions after that. Daunting and terrifying news. Marie and Mike took hold of the situation–and their faith. They found the best doctors and medical team and prepared for what lay ahead.

The road has not been smooth, but Matthew is an energetic, beaming, fun and bright five-year-old (who will be joining my son in kindergarten next year and has played soccer with him for the past three years). Marie, like many others who have had a painful, life-changing experience, made her way through by founding an organization to help other children and families: Matthew’s Hearts of Hope.

Matthew’s Hearts of Hope gives research grants to pediatric cardiology fellows who are working on more effective ways of detecting and correcting CHDs. Matthew’s Hearts of Hope also brings in the local community to help make heart pillows to distribute to CHD patients to comfort them and provide a buffer on their chests when they need to cough and move post-operation. (Guideposts' Comfort Kits for Kids would be a nice pairing with these pillows, don’t you think?)

Marie has not stopped there. CHDs are the Number One defect in newborns. There are 35 types of CHDs, and 1 in 100 babies (40,000 a year) are born with one. More children die from CHD each year than all cancers combined. There are many families who learn, as Marie and Mike did, that there is a cardiac issue while the baby is still in utero, but about half of families do not.

Did you know that a simple pulse oximetry test (the little device that goes on your finger and lights up) given to a newborn at 24 hours of age can detect a critical cardiac defect, one that needs immediate attention? Before Marie got involved, only two states (New Jersey and Indiana) mandated this screening for CHD, a test that takes less than two minutes.

Well, give Marie a mission and she’s off! She has worked with legislators in multiple states and is making wonderful headway. New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine have passed laws that require pulse oximetry screening on newborns. Lives are being saved because of it. (A Maine state representative read Marie’s Guideposts story and was inspired to make screening mandatory in his state.) 

And how about this? I just spoke to Marie and learned that as of now, more than two-thirds of our states have introduced bills requiring the test. Many people are now advocating for this vital screening. Truly amazing!

Marie and everyone supporting Matthew’s Hearts of Hope are making a profound impact on the lives of CHD patients and their families. Marie and my grandmother would have gotten along very well. Heaven only knows what they could have accomplished together! I am so grateful to have the inspiration of these two women, and my Grandpa Peale, who found needs and found ways, through hard work, vision, prayer and support, to change lives.

Katheryn (Katie) Allen Berlandi is the seventh of Guideposts cofounders Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Ruth Stafford Peale’s eight grandchildren. She is a clinical social worker with a private practice focusing on children, adolescents and families, and a consultant for Guideposts and the Guideposts Foundation. Katie lives in a small town in Connecticut with her husband, two daughters and son.