Her sister’s heart murmur inspires Lubbock teen to build team raising $25,000 to fight heart disease

Sage and Grace Boyle in Lubbock, Texas

Sage and Grace Boyle, image courtesy of Annie Chalex Boyle.

Grace Boyle was born a dozen years ago with heart murmurs from a hole in her heart.

Though the hole was not an immediate concern, every year Grace and her mother Annie Boyle go to a pediatric cardiologist to get the hole measured, making sure Grace is OK.

“Unfortunately, it has not closed which could be an issue for her down the road but for right now we’re still monitoring,” Annie said, adding doctors want to wait until Grace is fully grown.

Then there are two options: the hole closes on its own, or she’d need surgery. The cardiologist believes it’s on pace to close on its own, Annie said.

Grace’s health challenge also impacted – and inspired – her older sister Sage.

She’s become a teenage force raising money and awareness about heart disease – the number-one killer in America.

On the evening of April 16, Sage’s face glowed with joy and excitement when she was named the West Texas Teen of Impact Ambassador after raising $25,000 for the American Heart Association.

Leading causes of death in America in 2022

Heart disease: 702,880
Cancer: 608,371
Accidents: 227,039
COVID: 186,552
Stroke: 165,393

Source: National Center for Health Statistics

‘If Sage would consider this’

Teens across Texas and the country are nominated to be in a nine-week competition raising money and awareness, according to the American Heart Association website. The teens who earn the most points are named Teen of Impact winner for their city.

Sage, 14, who just finished her freshman year at All-Saints Episcopal School, started fundraising and spreading awareness when she was a student at Roscoe Wilson Elementary School doing the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope for Heart annual fundraiser.

“Every year I would always talk about how passionate I was about heart disease and how … my little sister was born with a hole in her heart,” Sage said.

Annie, associate professor of violin at Texas Tech and concertmaster for the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra, said Sage was nominated by the American Heart Association to participate in the most recent nine-week competition.

“I think they looked back at people who had gone through the Jump Rope for Heart program and so back in July we got an email if Sage would consider being a part of this,” Annie said.

  • Sage Boyle

Slideshow: images courtesy of Annie Chalex Boyle

Sage’s team

Sage began work in October and started her campaign a few months later, she said.

Sage got help from her school advisor along with a team of family and friends she put together, she said.

“Everybody was so willing to support me, I was really shocked at how lovely people were being about it,” Sage said. Networking was helped by family in different places, spreading her effort across the country.

Everyone on Sage’s team either had a personal connection to someone with heart disease or have it themselves, she said.

Most of the fundraising Sage did was word of mouth and through social media except for a fundraiser at her house, she said.

“We had a little concert where we had musicians from around town come and play music. We just ate food, had fun and we got a lot of donations,” Sage said.

Annie supported Sage, she said, adding Sage did most of the work.

“I posted on my Facebook page, I wrote letters, I texted people, I performed my violin at the concert at our house and invited some of my colleagues to come and play as well, but other than that, it’s all Sage,” Annie said.

‘Feeling honored’ and ‘helping so many’

Sage’s perspective on heart disease is different than most Americans, she said.

“I think a lot of people are used to having grandparents have issues with their heart and heart disease. It was really different for me as a young kid to watch my little sister have a heart issue,” Sage said.

Grace is grateful for her sister’s impact.

“I felt honored and feel like she’s helping so many people with bigger problems than I’ve had,” Grace said.

Sage never expected to make this big of a difference, she said.

“I was … shocked to see how easily it spread in our region and to other areas in the country. I did not see myself raising more than $10,000 but it was … crazy to see how many people were willing to support me,” she said.

Her mom concurred.

“I think finding the right group of people is what really made it happen. Sage was on top of that, figuring out the people that would be the best team to help,” Annie said.

Being an inspiration

Sage hopes to be an inspiration to others who want to make a difference, helping them realize it’s possible to make an impact if you have the reason and heart, she said.

“Everybody has the ability to do it – you just need to make sure that you do it with love and find the right support from your family,” Sage said.

She’s not done, either.

“I am looking forward to hopefully talking to other nominees next year and supporting them,” Sage said.

Sage plans to go to college and study psychology. She believes there’s a correlation between psychology and heart disease, she said.

Annie said, “I think it brought us closer together as an extended family because on a regular basis we were talking with Grandma and with our aunt in Chicago.”

She added how proud she is of her daughter.

“Raising $25,000 is almost impossible. She made it happen through all of these connections. … It’s really incredible. The impact Sage is making is something she probably won’t even realize until she’s older,” Annie said.

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Author: Caleb Kostencki