Elmwood Park boy to throw out pitch at Cubs game Sunday

Luke Toth’s been playing catch with his parents at home or in Central Park for the past few weeks, but it’s not just a recreational activity.

The 5-year-old’s been practicing for something special.

Every year, the Chicago Cubs give Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge the opportunity to have a kid throw out the first pitch at one of their baseball games. This year, Luke was selected.

He’ll be throwing out the first pitch Sunday, Aug. 24, against the Baltimore Orioles.

His mother, Melanie Toth, said she’s not sure Luke has a grasp on what he’s about to be involved in.

“It will be his first Cubs game,” she said. “He’s excited about that. I don’t think he really gets it, but he will.”

Luke was chosen because he’s spent a lot of time at Advocate Children’s Hospital. He was born in 2008, but before he was born, doctors and his parents found out he had a rare heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot, which affects the structure of the heart and causes oxygen-poor blood to flow into the rest of the body.

At 9 months old, he had heart surgery. Toth recovered well, but last September, things changed.

His parents took him to the emergency room and found out his heart and kidney had failed.

“We found out he had only one functioning lung,” he said. “He coded [needed to be resuscitated] in the hospital room.”

After her son’s first surgery she and her husband, Ben, felt alone. Melanie started looking for resources to help them cope and deal with a child born with a heart defect.

“At that time, I needed support and at that time I didn’t have it,” she said.

While searching the web she discovered the group Mended Little Hearts, a nonprofit volunteer organization providing hope and support to children with heart defects and their families. That’s all she needed to know.

Since joining the organization in 2011, she has established the organization in the Chicago area at five children’s hospitals.

She said the organization was a welcome resource for her when she needed it, and is now able to help families who have a child in a similar situation.

As the organization’s regional director, she and other members of the group create care bags for young patients at area hospitals, along with offering resources to parents.

“I share my son’s story for mothers, give parents and families hope,” she said. “Being a heart parent is hard.”

Toth said the local branch of Mended Little Hearts has picnics and other events where their children can socialize. It’s been good for her son, who’s been able to interact with other children with a heart defect.

“I want him to know that there is something extra-special about him and his friends,” she said.

Because he has only one lung, he often gets tired very quickly, and the stroller used for his younger sister, Madalyn, becomes a place where he can take a quick nap.

He hopes to become a songwriter when he grows up, but that may change after he throws that baseball across home plate.

“For the rest of his life he will have to deal with this,” she said. “He may have to have another heart surgery. Like birthdays, we celebrate every year that he is surgery free.”

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