4th Annual LionHeart Owen Foundation Blood Drive

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PALM DESERT, CA – Sacred Heart School will host the Fourth Annual LionHeart Owen Blood Drive on May 21  from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Sacred Heart School and Church gymnasium at the corner of Deep Canyon and Fred Waring in Palm Desert.

 The LionHeart Owen Foundation invites the community to help save a life in honor of Baby Owen who passed away September 2013 from a rare congenital heart defect and childhood cancer. The Blood Drive will include activities for the whole family including treats, crafts for kids, raffles and more! Donor appointments are not required but highly recommended. 

Owen Thomas Vatter was born on May 15, 2013 with a very rare congenital heart defect. Approximately 1 of every 100 babies is born with a congenital heart defect and sadly many of those will not survive to see their 1st birthday.  Owen’s name means “strong fighter” and during his short four months of life, he fought like a mighty lion at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. Today, his family and friends encourage others to give the gift of life in honor of an incredible life cut short.

To book an appointment to donate blood at Sacred Heart, contact Alissa Vatter at lionheartowen@gmail.comor text/call (714) 757-1196. To learn more about Baby Owen, follow his journey at facebook.com/lionheartowen and see how this tiny miracle has changed lives and continues to inspire people all around the world.


3rd Annual LionHeart Owen Foundation Blood Drive

LHO3_facebookBe Someone’s Super Hero at the 3rd Annual LionHeart Owen Foundation Blood Drive 

Join us and give the greatest gift straight from your heart. You have the ability to save lives and become someone’s Super Hero in honor of a life cut short from congenital heart defects and childhood cancer. No money and no capes necessary!

Sunday, May 15th from 10am-2pm at Sacred Heart Church/School in the Salta Center (Gym) in Palm Desert join us for treats, crafts for kids, music and saving lives! Sacred Heart Church/School is located at the corner of Deep Canyon and Fred Waring at 43775 Deep Canyon Rd, Palm Desert, CA 92260.

Donor appointments are not required but they are highly recommended. Book your appointment today by emailing Alissa Vatter at lionheartowen@gmail.com or calling 714.757.1196!

If you are unable to attend locally please WEAR RED on May 15th, share the event and send us pictures of you donating! Don’t forget to tell everyone you know about CHDs and Childhood Cancer!

For out of area blood donations, visit www.redcross.org to find a donor location in your area.

More information and daily updates are available on the LionHeart Owen Facebook page.

If you have questions or would like more information on becoming a blood donor click on the following link Blood & Donation Information FAQ

Two Years without Owen

20140401-203553.jpgTomorrow will be two years since we said goodbye to Owen. Two years since we held onto him tightly as his soul left his body. I will never forget his adoring father and I whispering in his ear, “It’s okay to go. Mommy and Daddy will always love you. It’s okay to go.” While I struggled to say those words and was not truly ready, it was our job as his parents. We were being asked to do the hardest, most selfless thing and we could not let our son down. Deep in my heart I knew the Lord was waiting for him with open arms, he would soon be healed and be free of all this pain. His heart would finally be well and he would be safe.

20130519-083609.jpgI can remember walking, more like being carried by my husband, out of the hospital for the last time in a daze. We had a lifetime to pack in our car and only moments to pack it up. I remember quickly turning around and running back through the big doors of the hospital to give our monthly parking pass to the security guard. Through deep sobs saying we wouldn’t be needing it anymore but surely there was a family that did. I remember the quiet 3 hour drive home. The first time my husband and I had made that drive together in over 120 days. I remember the empty smell of our home as we walked through the door. I remember panicking looking for my phone “incase” the hospital called. I remember collapsing in the back corner of my closet hidden under my husbands dusty suits and crying, sobbing, screaming for my son to be there. Screaming for him to breathe. Yelling out for this all to be a mistake and for our son, not the ceramic foot prints made by the child life team at CHLA, to be safe in his crib. A crib in his nursery that was perfect, untouched, and waiting for him. I remember my husband picking me up off the floor and then it was morning. It was the first full day without Owen. Then it was day two, week one, month one, first holiday, first milestone, a first year without him. So many things happened. So many things I don’t remember because I was never truly present. The world kept spinning, while I faked a smile and showed up. I remember thinking, is this how life is going to be? Just a series of motions?

IMG_1324Then year two happened. Grief changed, life changed, I changed and I started living again. That’s what is so funny about grief. It’s not constant. It flows in waves and has a different current for each person it meets. It changes with each loss and it’s never the same. It has similar stages but they never visit the same way. Year two I found a new different. I started to fall in love with my new different and most of all my new different with our second son. Our gift forced me to push through my grief and find joy again. It made the bad moments become joyful moments with an aching for Owen to be there in a celebration. Year two changed grief from a constant sting to a deep muscle bruise. If touched just right it hurt like hell but mostly it just lingered with a soft nagging pain, a reminder it will always be there and I’m so grateful for the reminder. Being gifted with Owen changed me in so many ways. My eyes see differently, my heart feels deeper and my daily intentions are more purposeful and meaningful.

DSC_9046In year two, milestones surprise you. The grief sneaks in without you realizing it. One week ago I was at Sprouts grocery shopping with Brody. I was cracking up as he waved and smiled at each and every person that walked by. He was chewing on an apple about the size of his head and he was full of so much joy. I was just about to check out and realized I forgot lettuce. I ran back, grabbed the lettuce and checked the expiration date. There it was September 4. It was staring at me in the face and I just dropped the lettuce. Tears fell down my face and I’m almost positive people started staring. I quickly picked up the lettuce, threw it in the cart and pulled it back together.  That drive home was hard, I sobbed the entire way home thinking of the word “expiration” and why was Owen’s life here on earth planned to “expire” incredibly too soon. I’ll never stop asking that question and I don’t think any of us that have experienced loss ever will. I pray for all of us that one day that question is answered. But, something tells me that by the time we get the chance to ask we will be surrounded by all of those that we Love and the answer won’t even matter. I pray for each of you grieving. Whatever stage you are at, I pray that you are finding balance in your new different. I hope you allow yourself the bad moments needed to grieve but don’t stay in those moments for too long and allow them to become bad days or weeks. I pray that you can talk about your loved one with joy and a smile as you get lost in their memory. I pray that your eyes can see each time they visit you, I promise you they will. Most of all I pray that if your struggle and grief is too hard that you seek the professional medical help you need and deserve. Grief is a dark and scary place and it can take over without you knowing. There is a whole world out here that loves you and I pray that you allow it in.

In memory of our precious son Owen Thomas Vatter, we challenge you to carry on his legacy by paying it forward. Buy coffee for the next person in line, become an organ donor, donate blood, send a surprise gift to a friend, do something entirely unexpected and make someone’s day. Please share your stories and tag them with #lionheartowen

Thank you for loving our family and being a part of our village! 20130818-225505.jpg

Thank you for making the 2nd Annual Blood Drive a Huge Success

IMG_8205There are no words to express my gratitude for everyone that made Owen’s 2nd Birthday Blood Drive possible. It was an incredible day and I know Owen was smiling down on all of us and so proud of the way we honored him and are keeping him alive. It’s hard to explain what it feels like to have a party for your child and not have them there. But looking around I saw him everywhere. In the hummingbird that joined us for lunch, the yellow butterfly that followed me through the doors and the smile on each life saver’s face as they spent their Sunday paying it forward in honor of our amazing 2 year old.

IMG_8239It’s simply impossible to articulate what my heart felt as I donated blood for the first time. As I watched the blood flow from my veins, tears poured down my face. I thought of each selfless person that did the same thing two years ago so our son could stay with us one extra day. I prayed for each person my blood would save and I prayed for each dream they would get the chance to make a reality. I thanked God for the opportunity to save lives in memory of our boy.

On Sunday we gave 78 units of blood! That’s 78 people that gave dreams back to 4 adults or 8 babies each!!! We made a difference! We became Life Savers!

IMG_8215I am humbled by the love and support of the hundreds of people that joined us! I would like to give a special thank you to Sacred Heart Church and School for hosting the space and the time and talents you have offered us to make today happen! Thank you to the Sacred Heart students that fed each one of our donors and hand wrote a special thank you card to each and every visitor. I’d like to extend a huge thank you to Julie’s Hallmark, Midwest Glass, Valley Pipeline, and Owen’s Nan, Pa, Nana, Papa and Great Grandma for sponsoring the event! Lastly, I could not have pulled off today without the love, support and hard IMG_8249work of our committee! You ladies are incredible! But, most of all I would like to thank my rock, teammate, and sidekick…. My husband! I know Owen is so proud of us!

If you were unable to attend, you can become a lifesaver anytime by visiting your local blood donation center. To find a center near you, visit http://www.redcross.org

KESQ was there doing a segment on our celebration. Video to come soon! Click Here  for the article written.

Happy 2nd Birthday Owen


Two years ago today Owen quietly entered the world, 16 weeks later he left as silently as he came. Though he never said a word his roar was heard round the world and inspired people to pay it forward in his name. 5,000 books have been collected, hundreds of people have become organ donors, and this Sunday we’ll become lifesavers for the 2nd time as we join together to save lives through blood donation. CLICK HERE to learn how you can become a Life Saver! Happy 2nd Birthday Owen!




Disney Tickets Drawing 20152The 2nd Annual LionHeart Owen Blood Drive is just 4 days away! LifeStream has partnered with us and is offering each donor a chance to win a family pack of four tickets to Disneyland Park OR Disney California Adventure Park.

Don’t miss this opportunity to pay it forward! Join us at Sacred Heart Church/School in Palm Desert THIS SUNDAY, May 17 from 10-2 and become a LIfesaver! Just 30 minutes of your time can give 3 people the chance at a lifetime.

Make your appointment today by visiting www.lionheartowen.com/events

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mothers day 2015On May 15, 2013 I dove head first into the darkest and most beautiful journey of my life. I experienced a pain no words could describe but was surrounded by a sunshine brighter than any I had ever seen. On May 15, 2013 I became a Mom. I gave birth to our first greatest creation and in that moment I saw Jesus first hand. Though my introduction into motherhood was much different than many others, it is an adventure I would never change.

My first Mother’s Day I celebrated with the miracle of life kicking inside me. My second Mother’s Day I experienced the same joy balanced with an immense grief that my first born was safe in my heart and not in my arms. This Mother’s Day, my third, I am experiencing an incredible first, a Mother’s Day with my son in my arms.

IMG_7692My boys have taught me so much. In two years I have learned love, faith, patience, the true meaning of a village, the need to never stop showing up and the importance of his legacy. I’m learning how to grieve, how to get back up and how to ask for help. I’ve learned you don’t always have to be strong because there’s so many around us that can be strong for us. I’ve learned that being an adult is overrated and if I listened to my mom I would have waited. I’ve learned that being a wife, a mother… just being alive is hard but every second is worth it. I’ve learned that our children look up to us and we must never take that responsibility for granted.

IMG_5105Maya Angelou said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the moments that take your breath away.” My breath was taken away the first time I saw the pregnancy test that said I was a Mom! My breath was taken away the first time I heard his heart beat on the ultrasound machine. My breath was taken away when I breathed for him as he came into this world. My breath was taken away the day he learned to breathe. My breath was taken away when he laid in my arms and together we took his last breath. My breath was taken away the day I was being blessed with a second boy to call me Mom. pic1My breath was taken away the first time I held our tiny healthy miracle in my arms. My breath was taken away with each new milestone met. My breath is taken away each time the wind blows and Owen gives me sweet kisses as he flies by. My breath has been taken away each day since I became a Mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you! No matter how you became a Mom, today is all about you! Thank you for your heart. Thank you for each time your breath was taken away. I celebrate you and pause to honor you today. My heart aches for each of you who have never held your child, for each of you that long to see a positive pregnancy test, for each of you who have had to say goodbye pic 4to your greatest gift. Today I mourn with you! Even more than that today, I also rejoice that you are Moms! Your baby gave you the greatest gift and your child made you the incredible woman you are! Today is our day!

An unwanted guest with muddy shoes

20130904-230615.jpgOn September 4, 2013, our son died. I held his lifeless body in my hands and said, “good-bye” for the last time. I wept. I sobbed. I screamed. I then became empty. I felt like I was in a dream… no a nightmare. Life went on. People moved on. Everyone kept living, moving, just being. For some time I did not know how. I did not know how to go back to life before Owen. I did not know who I was before Owen. I did not know who to be, period. The truth is there will never be life before Owen. Owen changed me. He changed me in a huge way and each day I am discovering more and more how he changed me. I am discovering who I am in this new different every day. Some days I like who I am. The mom, the wife, the employee, the daughter, the friend, and the positive woman that believes that last “good-bye” was really a see you later. Other times I hate who I am. The impatient, frustrated, sad, angry, hopeless, broken woman who believes he is gone forever.

Brody the hippo5 weeks after Owen passed away I went back to work. Two months later I found out we would be expecting our second son. I was going to be a Mom to our second child. He would need me. Work needed me. My husband needed me. Business was good at work. I had a healthy baby boy growing inside me. I had a few friends that I spoke to regularly and a family that provided endless support. Life went on. My life went on. I was learning how to fit in with the new different.

But in so many ways life hasn’t moved on. The motions have continued. The rhythm of the day has gone on. Wake up, drink coffee, go to work, come home, make dinner, go to bed, repeat… Yes, there are days that provide some excitement and the weekends provide some variation, but for the most part, day in and day out I do the same thing and that has provided comfort. I have avoided so much that is out of that comfort zone because of… well, fear. I have stopped working out. We have not vacationed. We rarely go out and not just because it can be a lot of work with a 7 month old, but mostly because routine is safe. Life is safe. There are few tears in the mundane. I know what to expect. It is safe.

photoToday, this all changed. Today, I realized all of the above and today grief and God gave me a serious smack down. I’ve spoken many times lately about how the second year of grief is hard. It’s hard because life goes on. The first year everyone else’s life had gone on; in the second year I realized my life had gone on too and I don’t think I was ready for it. I have been standing in its way. I have an incredible second son who is turning 32 weeks. He has lived TWICE Owen’s lifetime and will live so many more. This scares the crap out of me! I have an amazing husband who stands by my side and would stop at nothing to give me the world if I asked for it. My life is blessed. But, I get in its way. My pain and the stages of grief stop me from so many things.

Today I decided to go head to head with grief without even knowing it. Today I decided to focus on me. To fall in love with the new different woman I have become and get to know her. Today I went for a run. It’s been a long time since I have put on my tennis shoes, walked out the front door, and just started moving. Today, I battled all of the excuses and I just went…. Phew! Now I remember why I have been avoiding it. It’s a scary place to be alone in my head. I begged God to show up. To let me know he was there… God created my playlist for my run and picked my foot up for every step. He filled my lungs with the breaths that Owen never got to take and he told me it was time to feel. In that moment the tears started. They poured out of me. Sobs came out without any control and I allowed myself to grieve. The stages of anger, denial, depression and bargaining poured out of me. God said, “It’s time for me to help you live with acceptance.” The 5th stage, I am not ready for…

a29f96651daa5b4babbdc1a302acb493Grief is a funny thing. It’s heavy; very heavy. Today I felt the true weight of grief that I have been carrying and it was much much more than the 20 lbs of baby weight I was hoping to run off. Grief does not make an appointment. It does not warn you when it’s coming over. You cannot bury it no matter how hard you try. You cannot ask it to go away. Shoot you can’t even screamed expletives at it and force it to go. It’s an unwanted house guests that makes a huge mess and refuses to leave and right in the moment you think that it’s gone it stomps through your house again with filthy, muddy shoes and sits back watching you as you clean up after it. Lovely right!?!?! You cannot run from it. So, today I decided to run with it.

Today through the sobs I realized how scared I can be of life. A song came on while I was running and the lyrics said, “death leaves you black and blue”. When you have had death in your hands you realize how definite it is here on earth. It is so scary to live. I had 4 months of life with Owen. I have four months of memories. Four months of smells. Four months of the hardest and most beautiful days of my life. Four months stored in my heart and my mind. Four months that I will never get back. Four months that I am so incredibly afraid to lose. Some days I fear that there is only so much room in my heart and my mind for the joyous memories. They are both quickly getting filled with moments with Brody and how lucky we are to have him. But, there is only so much space. I need grace. I need grace for the birthdays I don’t remember, the weddings I can’t attend; the anniversary’s that I forget. I need grace for the funerals I can’t go to. I need grace for the days that sometimes are just hard. The days that I am the person that sometimes I hate; the days that I am not ready for new memories because they are memories without Owen. I need grace as God helps me work through this.

Please hang on with me through this second year of grief. It’s not pretty. It’s full of sloppy, snotty, loud sobbing tears but I know that they are all leading me to a place of healing. I know there are many that are following our journey that have just lost someone, or are in the same place as us, or are years into their grief and have turned to other things to get them by. Please do one thing for yourself today. Fall in love with you. Your loved one wants you to. It will hurt like hell but you deserve it.

imagesW716M7MDThis May 17th we will be celebrating Owen’s 2nd birthday at the 2nd Annual LionHeart Owen Gift of Life Blood drive. What better way for us to face life than through gifting it to those who need it. Please save the date and stand with us as we give life for a life taken far too soon!

I will also be challenging myself to run a 10k in honor of our boy. I am trying to find the perfect one. Stay tuned. When we announce the date and location we would love to have you run with us! I challenge each one of you to face your excuses and your fears and get out there. Today was so hard in so many ways. But with each step I felt the weight of grief being left on the pavement and the light joys of Owen filling their space.

18 months without Owen

IMG_7736It’s been 18 months since we said good by to Owen. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday, other days it feels like a lifetime. We see him daily in so many ways; beautiful sunrises, majestic sunsets, tiny yellow butterflies, courageous lions, our second son’s smile, and many more… We are thankful for these visits but long for him to be in our arms.

Until then, we hold on tight to the blessings we have been given in sweet Brody. They have a bond that is evident in each random giggle, babbles to the Heavens, and in his crystal blue eyes… They have an invisible string that connects them for eternity. Brody will forever look up to his incredible big brother and we know he will always be looking down and watching over him.

IMG_6771My dearest Owen,

18 months ago I held you in my arms for the last time. I spent the day studying the sound of your tiny beating heart, memorized the sound of your breathing, and savored every sweet sound you made as you cooed up at me. 18 months ago I kissed you for the last time from the top of your head to the tip of your toes. I took in every curve of your perfect body and got lost in your deep blue eyes. I curled your soft blonde hair in my fingers and breathed in your perfect baby smell. 18 months ago I said good bye, I said the words that I never wanted to say but desperately knew you needed to hear.

IMG_7856You have blessed my life more than you will ever know, sweet boy. Thank you for the things that you have taught me. Thank you for each and every way you show up each and every day. Thank you for watching over your brother and being with him in everything he does. Thank you for making me a Mom. Thank you for teaching us kindness, patience and a love deeper than words can explain. Thank you for reminding us not to take anything for granted. Each day… Each breath is a blessing and I owe each one to you.

This life here on earth is but a blink my, dear son and I can’t wait for the moment you are back in my arms. Until then I will meet you each night in my dreams and hold you safe in my heart.

IMG_6564I love you my precious, perfect, first born son. You are my everything. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.